Women's situation

Jordan ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1992 but women’s rights continue to be violated by their families, society and the state.

Factions within the government work to change this, yet national policies have yet to be implemented, resources and leadership are lacking and there are discrepancies between constitutional rights and local social norms and traditions. 

Jordanian society is deeply patriarchal and remains rooted in tribal traditions. Events in recent years have contributed to a climate of increased conservatism in Jordan, which has had a detrimental impact on the situation of women.

The refugee crisis during the last couple of years, coupled with perceived threats to national security have resulted in the demotion of women’s rights on the political agenda. Meanwhile, Palestinian and Syrian women living in refugee camps are more vulnerable than ever. Denied basic rights, they are easy targets for sexual assault, domestic violence and early marriage – all growing problems in refugee camps and communities in Jordan.

Another vulnerable group in Jordan are foreign migrant women, particularly those working in the domestic sector and factories in Jordan’s industrial zones. The rights of these women are extremely limited compared to those of Jordanian citizens, with few effective recourses for addressing grievances concerning unfair treatment and labour law violations.

Political participation

Although Jordanian women have basic legal rights concerning freedom of movement, health, education, political participation and employment, they are still subject to a number of discriminatory laws. One example is the law on citizenship, which denies women the right to transfer full citizenship to their children. In addition, men receive higher pensions and social security benefits than women.

Political positions of power in Jordan are still dominated by men, but women are slowly gaining ground. In the 2013 elections, women received 12 percent of parliamentary seats, a small increase compared to the 11 percent in 2010. Jordan has introduced a quota that reserves 10 percent of the seats in the parliament for women (at the municipal level, the quota is 25 percent).

A new Parliamentary Election Law was endorsed in March 2016, with a women quota of 15 seats out of 130. In addition, a new Decentralization Law (concerning Decentralization elections) was adopted with a 10% woman quota. However, despite initial optimism, these new election laws does little to erase parties’ disadvantage against tribal candidates.

Discriminatory laws

Although the constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom declares Jordanians to be equal in the eyes of the law, it omits the inclusion of gender alongside ‘race, language or religion’ in identifying illegal grounds of discrimination. Efforts from civil society groups, such as the Arab Women’s Organisation, to have the wording amended with gender included have so far been unsuccessful.

Jordan’s legal system includes both civil and religious courts. Issues relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance are being settled in Islamic Sharia courts or in courts of different religious minorities. In Sharia courts a woman’s testimony is worth half of that of a man’s.

These legal obstacles – together with traditional values that hinder women from seeking employment or owning property – make it hard for women to become self-sufficient. Divorced, older women and widows are especially vulnerable, since they are often financially dependent on relatives or friends.

Honour based violence

Honour-based violence remains a major issue in Jordan, where strict family codes underpin the social order, particularly in the county´s tribal communities. Between 10 and 20 honour killings of women are officially being reported each year, although many cases go unreported and the suspected number of cases is much higher.

Some measures have been taken to overcome this type of violence. In 2009 a special court was set up to deal with crimes of honour and the following year the prison penalty for murders of women was increased to between 10 and 20 years.

The courts have also been forbidden to refer to Article 98 of the Penal Code, which stipulates that an offender who commits crimes ”in a state of great anger (fit of fury)…may be liable to a lesser penalty”. However, there have been reports that this article is still being used. Often, the existence of multiple suspects contributes to the failure to pursue and prosecute these crimes.

Women deemed to be at risk of honour-based violence can be held in “protective custody” for indeterminate periods. In some instances, these women spend years in prison against their will.

Issues with reporting violence

Domestic violence is relatively common, but rarely reported. Women have the right to report these types of crimes, but in most cases it is still not socially acceptable to do so. Patriarchal structures in Jordanian society and in the legal system prevent women from claiming their rights. For example, rape within marriage is not a crime under Jordanian law.

Women who are victims of violence can turn to a special unit within the police, the Police Family Protection Unit. There is also a government shelter for women, but it the number of places is limited.

In 2009, the Women’s Complaints Bureau at the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) was established to collect information on discrimination and violence against women and provide legal aid to victims.

Violence against women remains underreported due to social and familial pressures. A ministerial committee examining the Penal Code has recently decided to make amendments to the controversial Article 308 that pardons rapists if they marry their victims. Jordan’s official statistics place honour killings at a rate of 20-30 per year.

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is still a big problem in Jordan, despite a law prohibiting it. Migrant women are a particularly vulnerable group and they risk being forced into prostitution or being used as low-paid workers (cleaners, housekeepers), often under circumstances more akin to slavery than employment.

Women and children refugees are especially vulnerable and there have been reports of an increase in human trafficking, prostitution and sexual violence in the camps and host communities. Strict restrictions on employment opportunities for Syrian refugees mean that many are unable to support themselves and their families. This has contributed to a rise in negative coping strategies, such as early marriage, with a growing number of young girls being pushed into arranged marriages, often with much older men, in return for a dowry and one less mouth to feed.

There has also been a rise in temporary marriages in refugee communities. Some of these girls are then discarded just weeks or months later and left to fend for themselves in an alien environment. In this situation, they are vulnerable to traffickers, while others end up begging or forced into prostitution.


Senast uppdaterad: 2016-08-03