Women in Jordan

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Women in Jordan
Queen Rania of Jordan.jpg
Queen Rania sets an example for the independence of the Jordanian woman
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value 0.482 (2012)
Rank 99th out of 148
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 63 (2010)
Women in parliament 11.1% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 68.9% (2010)
Women in labour force 15.6% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value 0.6093 (2013)
Rank 119th out of 136

Throughout history, women in Jordan's political, social and economic status has varied based on the legal, traditional, cultural and religious values at the time. The current legal framework which is based on European civil code is coupled with Islamic tradition and Shari'a Law has determined the rights and liberties legally granted to women while traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity seem to determine women's access to education, the workplace and the general public sphere.

Political representation[edit]

Operative legal framework[edit]

The current operating legal framework for women’s rights in Jordan includes the Jordanian Constitution, a civil status code, the Personal Status Law and international law regarding human rights. Traditional and cultural ideals of femininity also affect how women are viewed and treated in Jordan.[3] Women in Jordan, however, did not receive the right to vote until 1974. This was fairly late for the region, as Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Turkey and Iran had all granted women suffrage by 1967.[4]

The Jordanian Constitution was written in 1952 and states that all “Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion.” [3] There are many constitutional provisions that affirm basic rights and political representation for all. For example, Article 22 states that each Jordanian has equal opportunity to be appointed to and serve in public office as such appointments “shall be made on the basis of merit and qualifications.” [5] An amendment on January 28, 2003 implemented the quota system in Jordanian parliament, and while a religious precedent exists for parliamentary seats in the constitution, allocating seats for women is new and shows that the government recognizes and is trying to break down the various barriers women face running for office.[5] The Provisional Penal Code reduces sentencing for men who commit violent acts against women in the “honor” context. In the last decade, however, it has been amended. While the original code allowed men to implement the law themselves, the new amendment leaves punishment and sentencing to the judicial system of the state.[5] In addition, there are no provisions under the Labor or Penal Codes to protect women against sexual harassment. This lack of legislation explicitly protecting women exposes them to harassment both at home and in the workplace. Jordan is a member of many international organizations that guarantee basic human rights to women.[6]

There are many legal documents that support women's equality in Jordan. While the Quran demands "equality of the sexes," it provides a religious framework that separates men and women.[7] The Quran gives men extensive power in the divorce process and a certain "economic responsibility." [8] Men are "by nature not equal because God created them different in nature, talent, and ability," as they are "created and fashioned for different tasks," the man is expected to protect and provide for his family while the women is expected support her husband, raise children and take care of the house.[9] The Personal Status Law in Jordan was enacted on September 5, 1976 and replaced the Jordanian Law of Family Rights No.92 [10] The Personal Status Law in Jordan determines an individual's status and rights regarding marriage, parentage, custody, property, maintenance for kin, missing persons and wills.[10]

Representation in elected office[edit]

While female participation in Jordanian parliament has increased over the past decade, it still remains low. Notwithstanding the 1974 law giving women the right to campaign and serve in office, few Jordanian women today are motivated to or feel comfortable running for political office, while even fewer are elected and ultimately serve. Current King of Jordan, His Majesty King Abdullah II, passed legislation requiring a quota for the number of women in parliament. Since the quota was established, 6 of the 110 seats in the Lower House of Parliament have consistently and successfully been reserved for women.[11]

On average, 16% of parliamentary seats are held by women globally.[11] In Jordan, however, women only hold around six percent in the two parliamentary houses combined.[12] Jordan is still working on women's representation in elected office, but as progressive policies continue to be proposed and adopted under King Abdallah, traditional gender roles and customary ideals of femininity and masculinity in Jordan will be challenged, decreasing inequalities between men and women.

While only 6% of parliamentary seats are held by women, the Queen of Jordan has used her position and subsequent power to actively support the women's rights.[13] Rania has been Queen since 1999 and is married to King ʿAbdullah II.[13] Her family is of Palestinian descent (her father was from Ṭūlkarm, her mother from Nablus) and was born and raised in Kuwait.[13] Rania is highly educated; she has a business administration degree from the American University in Cairo (1991) and before marrying King Abdullah II in January 1993, she worked as a banker.[13] As Queen of Jordan, Rania has fought for a wide range of causes, including women’s rights, access to education, environmental concerns, and the development of strong Jordanian communities. She is still incredibly active today. In March 2008, Rania launched a video blog as part of her efforts to deconstruct stereotypes about Arabs and promote dialogue with the West.[13]

Jordanian National Commission for Women[edit]

The Jordanian National Commission for Women's (JNCW) mission is to “support mainstreaming of a gender-equality perspective in all policy areas and to narrow the gap between formal acknowledgement of women's rights as detailed by legislation and actual societal attitudes towards women through improving the status of women and enhancing their role in national development.” [14] They work to equalize women’s status – socially, politically and economically – in Jordan by proposing legislation and studying the existing policies regarding women’s rights.[13] The JNCW also works closely with various public institutions and NGO’s in hopes of branching out and developing their organization. In 1996, the Jordanian cabinet made the JNCW the official government “reference point” on all issues pertaining to women and now reports directly to the Prime Minister. The JNCW has become a quasi-governmental institution accountable in large part for drafting national policies regarding women’s rights and economic advancement.[15]

Social representation[edit]

Education[edit]

There are constitutional provisions that affirm Jordanian citizens’ basic rights to education. Article 20, in fact, makes elementary education required for all Jordanians and free of charge in public, government schools.[5] This provision is elaborated on and reinforced in the Education Act. The Jordanian government spends more than 5% on education every year and has had positive results. Since 1980, the literacy rate in Jordan has increased from 69.2% to 91% in 2002. With a female literacy rate of 85.9%, Jordan has the highest female literacy rate in the Middle East.[16] So, while the majority of Jordanian women are both literate and well educated, the differences in career expectations based on gender stem from cultural practices and not the fact that women are not as capable as men.[16]

Female enrollment at all levels of school is high and Jordanian women have the highest average number of years of schooling in comparison with women in both Kuwait and Bahrain. While men in Jordan receive 1.7 years more schooling that women in Jordan receive, the difference is considered very low for the region.[17] The drop out rate is not excessive, but women claim their primary reason for dropping out of school (at various levels) is marriage and their responsibilities in the home while men claim they drop out primarily to get jobs and help their families make money.[17]

Family approval of a woman’s education is crucial. When a poorer family is unable to put more than one child through school, the boy gets the education and the girl doesn’t mind, as she thinks she will have enough to do in the private sphere.[18] While women have access to basic schooling, access to technological training is limited as women are expected to study topics that directly relate to their dominant roles as wives and mothers – such as art, humanities, and teaching.[19] Though females are fairly equally represented in school, there is excessive gender stereotyping in Jordanian textbooks.[17]

Employment[edit]

There are constitutional provisions that affirm Jordanian citizens’ basic rights to work and there is nothing in Islam that forbids women from doing so.[20] The Constitution states, "Work is the right of all citizens," "Jobs are based on capability," and "All Jordanians are equal before the law.[21] There will be no discrimination between Jordanians regarding rights and duties based on race, language or religion." [21] The Labor Laws clarify the Constitution further: "By Jordanians are meant both men and women." [21] The Labor Code defines a worker/laborer/employee as “each person, male or female, who performs a job in return for wages.” The Constitution asserts that the government “shall ensure work and education within the limits of its possibilities, and it shall ensure a state of tranquility and equal opportunities to all Jordanians.” [21] Work is “the right of every citizen,” and “the State shall provide opportunities for work to all citizens by directing the national economy and raising its standards.” Jordanian labor laws protect women from losing their jobs during pregnancy and give them assistance with childcare.[3] While the laws themselves promote justice and equality, the traditional ideals of masculinity and femininity and the "patriarchal nature of the legal system" contribute to women's noticeable absence from the workplace and the inequalities they face once there.[21]

Gender inequalities in Jordan today also stem from traditional gender roles that have embedded themselves in Jordanian culture. “At the root of the barriers to women’s labor force participation are traditional attitudes that place a high value on women’s roles in the private sphere and within the family that is important in Jordanian society.” [3] These stereotypes are based on the notions that: “(a) men and women differ biologically and that these biological differences determine their social function; (b) men and women carry different and complementary responsibilities within the family; and (c) they have different but equitable rights associated with those responsibilities.” [3]

The "traditional paradigm" of Jordanian gender expects women to marry early and contribute to the family as a homemaker, wife and mother.[3] It assumes that the man will be in charge of the household and that he will provide for his family financially. Women, as wives and mothers, are perceived as vulnerable and in need of protection that should be provided by the husband. Men’s responsibility to protect their wives and children is considered sufficient justification for their exercise of authority over women in all areas of decision-making regarding both the public and private spheres. Due to this traditional paradigm, women’s interaction with and representation in politics and society are mediated by her husband.[3] While this paradigm exists to some extent all over the world, it is particularly prominent in Jordan as it has become institutionalized and pervades the legal framework.

Four women, one in a wheelchair and two wearing headscarves, sitting around a table assembling mosaics with tools and materials
Women assembling mosaics in a government-sponsored program

Unemployment, underemployment, differences in wages and occupational segregation are the four main factors in the economy that impact women’s level of labor.[22] In terms of unemployment, 15% of men are unemployed while 25% of women are unemployed and 82% of young women ages 15–29 are unemployed. Women are underemployed as they tend to be hired less than men with lesser education because large sections of the Jordanian economy are and have traditionally been closed off to women.[16] Less educated men often hold more jobs while women are often better educated, leading to many women settling for jobs requiring lesser education than they have. Wage discrimination in Jordan is no different from anywhere else in the world, but in combination with traditional and cultural factors – like being responsible for the private sphere (the family and the home) – women are driven away from the workforce. Jordanian law suggests that wives should be obedient to their husbands because the men financially support the family, and if she is disobedient her husband can discontinue financial support.[23] In addition, men have assumed the power to forbid their wives from working, and the Jordanian courts have upheld these laws.[23] Furthermore, as honor killings consistently occur and are currently on the rise, women are less motivated to leave the safety of their homes.[24] Laws in Jordan regarding honor killings continue to make it possible for courts to deal with perpetrators leniently.[24]

Occupational segregation exists in all aspect of the Jordanian workforce as both vertical and horizontal segregation is present.[25] Vertical segregation refers to the concept of the glass ceiling, where women are concentrated in lower paying, lower-ranking jobs and cannot break through to the higher levels. Horizontal segregation occurs when certain occupations are more female intensive. For example, more Jordanian men are civil servants and fill high-ranking positions while Jordanian women are concentrated in middle-ranking jobs. The consequences of women’s limited economic advancement and low female participation in the workforce leads to low utilization of national production capacity (World Bank estimates it is currently at half its potential), lower average household income and lower per capita GDP.[25] The greatest challenge to incorporating women equally into the workplace is overcoming traditional attitudes towards women and their expected duties as mothers and wives.[16] A change in attitude will inevitably lead to the changing of "gendered laws" and the role of women as homemakers.[26]

Networking[edit]

The Islamic Center Charity Society in Jordan is an example of one way middle class Jordanian women are able to network and connect over mutual experiences. Instead of functioning like a traditional “charity,” these Islamic charity institutions are founded on a more social basis.[27] While these they are not officially connected to the state, they impact the country both socially and politically.

Family rights[edit]

Marriage[edit]

Jordanian husbands determine their wives’ abilities to employ their constitutionally guaranteed rights to work and other public activities. Jordanian legislation and culture suggests that men have a certain control over their wives to mediate their interaction with the public. Men expect their wives to be obedient because they work in order to support the family financially.[23] Some amendments postpone this “ownership” for young girls. For example, the Jordanian Parliament increased the legal age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls, as the previous law set the legal age for marriage at 16 for boys and 15 for girls, which promoted early marriages and subsequent school drop out for married girls.[6]

Divorce[edit]

Divorce law is based almost entirely on Islamic Shari'a law, which is considered "unquestionable authority." [28] Variations in interpretation and application, however, do exist among Islamic courts across the Middle East. Divorces in Jordan, in particular, often ignore women’s rights and leave women with nothing if they are not supported by their families. In recent years, the government has worked to fix this problem by altering the judicial system. For example, "a new law has been drafted to force men to pay alimony for three years instead of six months, which was previously the case.” [28] Because men are free to divorce and stop supporting their wives if they are "disobedient," another law created an obligatory fund for divorced women, guaranteeing them a settlement from their ex-husband.[29]

Children[edit]

The father was technically responsible for the children's property, maintenance and education while the mother was responsible for the "physical care and nurturing" of the children.[30] While the father was considered the "natural guardian", if the parents were divorced the mother would take custody.[31] Today, however, children "belong" to both parents but the mother generally stays home to raise the children.

Property[edit]

While studies of women and their property rights evidence that Islamic courts have "upheld women's rights to property," women in Jordan legally own and inherit less than their male relatives do.[32] Throughout history and still today, when women have owned and inherited property, they have been frequently and intensely pressured to give up their land to male family members.[29] As a result, less than four percent of all property in Jordan is owned by women.[32]

Honor killings[edit]

Honor crimes are acts of violence committed by family members against women who are perceived to have shamed the family in some way. Women can "shame" their family by engaging in "marital infidelity, pre-marital sex and flirting", "failing to serve a meal on time" or getting raped [33] The Jordanian Penal Code today still includes provisions that excuse honor crimes by granting the perpetrator leniency in punishment. Many of these killings go unreported, but each year thousands of women are killed by family members in order to "restore honor." [33] Honor killings occur across the Middle East and around the world. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports of honor killings in Bangladesh, Great Britain, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sweden, Turkey, and Uganda expose that this practice "goes across cultures and across religions." [33]

It has been difficult to change legislation (particularly Article 340 of the Jordanian Penal Code) because violence against women has traditionally been considered a "private matter" rather than the "responsibility of the state." [34] In fact, there has been a nationwide women's human rights campaign, supported by King Abullah and Queen Rania, to modify Article 340, which grants perpetrators of honor killings leniency in Jordanian courts [35]

In April 2010, a 33-year-old man was charged with "hammering his wife to death and dumping her body on the highway leading to the Queen Alia International Airport". The husband easily confessed to murdering his wife in order to defend his honour, as she had been out meeting a male friend without his permission. "There are about 12 honour crime cases every year in Jordan," said Diana Shalabi, director of the complaint office at the Jordanian National Commission for Women. "However," she said, "many crimes involving women are c as honour killings and should be called regular crimes instead." [29]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. 2013. p. 156. 
  2. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 40
  4. ^ Women's Suffrage: A Chronology of the Recognition of Women's Rights to Vote and Stand for Election." Women in Politics. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2012. <http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/suffrage.htm>
  5. ^ a b c d The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 41
  6. ^ a b The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 47
  7. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 29
  8. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 34
  9. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 37
  10. ^ a b Nasir, Jamal J. The Islamic Law of Personal Status. 1986. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1990. Arab and Islamic Law Series. Page 34. Google Books. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=N4WmwikqudIC&oi=fnd&pg=PR11&dq=Jordanian+personal+status+law&ots=stgYGulzM&sig=Jntu0uJVUE2uyyMjraqmYIpaw5I#v=onepage&q=Jordanian%20personal%20status%20law&f=false>
  11. ^ a b The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 50
  12. ^ The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 51
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Rania al-ʿAbdullah." Encyclopedia Britannica: Academic Edition . N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1010290/Rania-al-Abdullah>
  14. ^ Mission." Jordanian National Commission for Women. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://www.women.jo/en/about.php?cat_id=10&type=0>.
  15. ^ The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 48
  16. ^ a b c d Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 3
  17. ^ a b c The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 27
  18. ^ The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 30
  19. ^ The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 28
  20. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 54
  21. ^ a b c d e Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 87
  22. ^ The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 10
  23. ^ a b c Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 15
  24. ^ a b Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 16
  25. ^ a b The Economic Advancement of Women in Jordan: A Country Gender Assessment. World Bank, May 2005. PDF file. Page 22
  26. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women of Jordan: Islam, Labor, & the Law. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003. Print. Page 7
  27. ^ Clark, Janine A. Islam, Charity, and Activism. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004. Print
  28. ^ a b Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 10
  29. ^ a b c Alami, Mona. "Women Make Progress But Honour Killings Persist." IPS. N.p., 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. <http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=51150>
  30. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 225
  31. ^ Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 226
  32. ^ a b Sonbol, Amira El-Azhary. Women, the Family, and Divorce Laws in Islamic History. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. Print. Page 220
  33. ^ a b c Mayell, Hillary. Thousands of Women Killed for Family "Honor." N.p.: National Geographic Society, February 12, 2002. National Geographic Society. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. Page 1. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/15061734.html>
  34. ^ Ruane, Rachel A. Murder in the Name of Honor: Violence against Women in Jordan and Pakistan. 14 Emory International Law Review (2000). Page 1529. http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/emint14&div=43&g_sent=1&collection=journals
  35. ^ Ruane, Rachel A. Murder in the Name of Honor: Violence against Women in Jordan and Pakistan. 14 Emory International Law Review (2000). Page 1528. http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/emint14&div=43&g_sent=1&collection=journals

External links[edit]