Are Jordanians equal before the law? I think not!

Ahmad Humeid drew my attention to the "Know your rights, protect yourself" campaign currently underway in Jordan. A number of Jordanian dailies published parts of the Jordanian constitution today to acquaint Jordanians with their rights. It is all nice and dandy, except for the problem I have with Article No. 6, which says:

Article 6 – (i) Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion

I find it quite interesting that gender is not addressed in this Article. I guess it is simply because Jordanians are, in fact, not equal before the law when it comes to gender. As a woman, I can never pass Jordanian citizenship on to my children, hence my future offspring, who will have a non-Jordanian father, will always come to Jordan as tourists. They will need a visa every time they visit the kingdon. But children of a Jordanian male married to a non-Jordanian automatically become citizens. Are all Jordanians equal before the law? I think not!

Another point: the inheritance issue. As a woman, I will always get half the share of inheritance that my male siblings receive. One again, Jordanians are not equal before the law. Since I do not see any changes brewing in either of these two issues, I would suggest amending Article No. 6 as follows: "Jordanians shall be equal before the law except in matters of gender."

With regards to religion, I’m not really sure about that either. Although non-Muslim minorities enjoy very good status in the kingdom, I don’t think I’ll live to see the day when there will be a Christian Jordanian prime minister. Frankly, I do not know how I will explain to my children that they can never be Jordanians let alone become prime minister. Oh, well!

17 thoughts on “Are Jordanians equal before the law? I think not!”

  1. how devastating it is for a parent not be able to tell her children they, one day, will become the prime minister of jordan.
    sorry for the the lame comment. i see the point of the post and there is truth in it.

  2. Natasha,
    I fear you are trying to take issues some of which undoubtedly exist, and blame them on an article in the constitution.
    It could be argued that references to Religion, race or language should be removed rather than add gender. That will be more inclusive.
    As regarding Women passing nationality I agree it would make sense, and it is something worth fighting to change but I don’t think its the constitution which stops you.
    As for inheritance I am fairly sure that Islamic shar3a inheritance can be opted out of under the current system? Any lawyers around to confirm this please?
    With regard to a Christian prime minister, why not. not long ago no one thought we would have women ministers. the reason it will be difficult currently is more to do with way politics is structured currently where there is little political activity with wide appealing ideology but rather a system which relies on tribalism and faith.
    It will however always be a long shot, but that is not the constitution but rather the people, democracy and all that!

  3. Actually, not mentioning these things within the confines of a constitution is dangerous. Nidal, you suggest that it would be more inclusive to remove any references to the law’s inclusiveness (there are more listed in the article Natasha links to as well). In theory, that makes sense, relying on the goodness of man. But the whole point of the document — and likely that of the Jordanian papers reprinting it — is to show what is codified into law.
    Not having it written into law leaves the door wide open for abuse. Someone could say these things are “self-evident,” etc … that’s fine. But not everyone agrees on all things “self-evident.” And sometimes those attitudes change when the political winds blow. It’s important that these things be written into the law, thereby legally requiring citizenry and the government to honor such ideals. It’s important that the people can point to it and say “this is my right as a citizen of this nation.” It’s nice to imagine people or the government would honor such ideals of their own volition. But in truth, they just might not.

  4. Natasha, the origin that a no Christian can become a Prime Minister in Jordan is is simply one statment in the constitution” the religion of the State is Isalm” Now, With due respect to Islam, Christianity or Judaism as great religions that advance our lives ,I believe that they should not identify the identity of any state. The reason for that is becuase this will cause injustice to other members who do not embrace that specific religion.
    I agree with you, that we will never see the day where a Christian become a Prime Minister. Marwan Al Masher is a good example about that. He is very loyal, national, smart and competent but he is Christian!

  5. Jeff
    I doubt not for a second that most humans will take advantage of any system of governance as long as they could, I guess the realist always got the better of the optimist in me.
    However when it comes to constitutions its precisely the argument you raise which in my view favours the general rather than the explicit. So that they are not altered by the change of the political tide.
    I would has it as a guess that the reason Religion, race and language where included in the original text is that they were issues of that moment (well in addition to influences from French law!). so now we want to add gender….then what next…
    I believe a law should be simple (Lawyers might come after me). And if you were to use an article of the constitution to defend an injustice. Then pointing out that you are Jordanian should be equally as good as pointing out you are a Jordanian woman
    I appreciate there are lots of arguments for both, and then you get into a debate regarding common law vs case law and then you really need “bakraj qahwaa”
    But to me a constitution should be about the spirit which should govern society. And if more details are necessary in other parts of the legal system then so be it!
    PS. Loved the pictures on your site, Qatar seems to have more to offer than I’ve managed to see so far, I shall try harder on my next visit.. (next week 🙂 if all goes well)

  6. “Frankly, I do not know how I will explain to my children that they can never be Jordanians let alone become prime minister.”
    Why don’t you just explain to them that they can grow up to become President of the United States instead??? And that’s regardless of whether they are male/female.
    Might not be Jordan, but it’s a pretty decent nation to rule…

  7. i agree on what you said eye to eye… but as you can tell form my post,,, i have only one comment,, re-phrase it.. to be politically correct,,, lol

  8. Hello,
    Natasha, as far as I know, the issue of allowing women married to foreigners to pass citizenship to their children is something Queen Rania was actively pursuing and trying to amend — I do not believe that her efforts were really successful, however. This is partly due to the fact that such an amendment will have, in many people’s view, a significant effect on the restructuring of Jordanian society as a whole and will undoubtedly influence its national make-up.

  9. What is the mechanism through which an ammendment, or a new article would go through in the Jordan constitution? Does anyone know? How much is practiced to honor this mechanism since there is absolute power that can change it in a blink of an eye ! Isnt one of the articles that this person is not accountable to anybody ( I forgot which article).

  10. I think they should get rid of the rule that says Jordanian mothers cannot pass their citizenship on to their children if they’re not from a Jordanian father. I also see no reason why the Islamic inheritance calculations should be applied to non Muslims!
    As for the prime minister not being Christian, it’s like the issue of not having an African American as the president of the United States so far. There’s nothing against it in the constitution, but it hasn’t happened, and it probably wont for quite a long time.
    Here’s a question, if they change article 6 of the constitution by adding “on grounds of gender”, will that automatically render the Islamic inheritance law unconstitutional?

  11. Dana, you are correct. Queen Rania has been stymied on this issue on several occassions — and had a few other choice pieces of women’s rights legislation held back as well. In this case it was basically for the reasons you suggest. Natasha is aware of that but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. In fact I think it makes it a bit more frustrating, since it’s right there in front of you — as it was — and then snatched away.

  12. Actually, I agree with Jeff:

    Not having it written into law leaves the door wide open for abuse. Someone could say these things are “self-evident,” etc … that’s fine. But not everyone agrees on all things “self-evident.” And sometimes those attitudes change when the political winds blow.”

    I know people are going to get riled up by this but I really think Arabs still do not comprehend the meaning of the word “constitution”. These things are changed as often as the village variety mule. Each constitution is tethered to the needs of a particular government, a particular ideology and so on. It should be governments that change according to the Constitution and not the other way round.

    That Jordanian women (and am sure other Arab women share this curse) cannot pass on their citizenship to their children is outrageous. It is a legalistic form of punishment.

    A professor of mine once said that the development of third world nations depends on the development of the status of women. Arabs, am afraid, have a long, long way to go. Furthermore, I will take this to the grave with me, but Arabs are simply not ready for democracy. Sure, they are entitled to pursue democracy. They are entitled to live in it. However, democracy and institutionalized religion in the form of life-altering edicts cannot co-exist.

    In Iraq, we had the clergy instruct the people how to vote. Why does Sistani have to let us know how he thinks everyone should vote? Is it power of the people or power of the more-privileged and higher up in the hierarchy? What happened to freedom of choice? Surely this is enshrined in democracy is it not? When it is implied that you should vote a certain way or risk the wrath of God (or his executors on earth) then you are hardly democratic. More like sheep, really.

    In Egypt, it was a catastrophe. Ask the common man on the street why he was voting for the Muslim Brotherhood and he would say, “They are pious, they won’t be corrupt”. What a crock.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Islam is a pure religion and the Prophet Muhammad was a brilliant man. But politicized Islam in today’s currents simply does not work. While the West was undergoing the Reformation, pursuing philosophy and science, realizing the rights of man and the Magna Carta and developing civic law, the Arab countries were in slow decline.

    If we are to study an election in say Sweden, we would notice the candidates debating a host of topics which are important to the electorate. The economy, taxes, social services, etc.

    Did anyone hear Ayman Nour talk about how he planned to pull Egypt out of a deficit? Or his foreign policy platform? No, he merely assailed the performance of the government without offering an alternative. Did anyone hear political party 555 (the UIA) discuss how it would improve Iraq’s security and services situation? No, I didn’t. Nor did I hear Allawi’s platform.

    Were there any debates? Why not have debates? Shouldn’t it be the right of every citizen to be armed with necessary information before they vote? No. Sistani will let us know what is good for us. Just fiery rhetoric with empty slogans that are not even fitting to print on toilet paper. In the Arab/Muslim worlds laws serve the ruling elite. The military protects the elite. I want to see laws protect the people – al sha3b. And the military serve the people.

  13. hmm, for once natasha, i partially agree with you 😀
    ok first of all HM Queen Rania did announce back during the arab women conference that she proposed women passing on the citizenship, however i think it ammended in the lower house to be more defined than what she intended originally. they split it into categories of a woman divorced more than something like 3 years, a widower and something else which i forgot. this is obviously not what she had in mind.
    so i agree with you that there should be such an ammendment to citizenship laws. i think egypt’s going through the same thing.
    second, about inheritance. there is a christian court in jordan with its own laws (we talked about this before), however when it comes to inheritance they refer to the sharia for some reason. i dont know why that is exactly but my father’s friend who is a christian tribal leader in kerak once explained it to me and it made sense although i dont know how legit his thoughts were. i know we like to think of everything in the Ammanite mentality but step outside the city box for a moment: in jordan tribes and family like to keep the land in their name. its a patriarchal society where tribes dont like the thought of a female inheriting land which will be passed on to her children who are not of that family (name). For example, being from Tarawneh I cant even sell my land to someone whose not tarawneh, and im a guy. Usually in Jordan when a muslim woman inherits land she’ll give it to her brothers who will give her the price for it, in the name of keeping it in the family. Not always of course, but usually. In some cases, in the much larger tribes…if a woman marries a man from a small family he takes up her family’s name! the tribal spirit is a strong aspect of jordanian culture beit a christian or muslim tribe, so according to what my father’s friend says, the inheritance laws are the same for that reason.
    third, actually (in response to someone who said this) just because the religion of the state is Islam does not mean a christian cannot be a PM. The king chooses the PM’s. if we have free elections in the manner of which the king is aiming for (or at least talking about) then it’s possible based on free elections that a party will eventually win with a christian as it’s prime minister.

  14. Tater…I know there are a few exceptions, but if you were not a white Caucasian male/female in the US, you would not even dream of securing a job in one of the big oil companies in Texas. So it is not a matter of being an American to be a president of the US.
    Natasha, I think the citizenship issue has political reasons as Dana pointed out rather than it is a matter of gender discrimination. But I agree with you that such rules should be abolished.
    Hamzeh, Islamic inheritance calculations constitutes part of the country’s ‘public policy”. This means that it cannot be amended by a contractual agreement and no foreign law can be applied which contradicts with it. This is the legal system of Jordan and cannot be changed! Unless if Jordan choose to change its system for secularism like Tunis. It is exactly how in U.S, a Muslim can apply the rules of his religion (like Christians do in Jordan) but he cannot have more than one wife since this is against the public policy of that country. Something that it is difficult to be noticed by MacDonald’s lovers!

  15. Actually,the US did have a black president.His name was Bill Clinton.LOL! Sorry…it’s kind of an inside joke.Anyway,a better analogy might be if a muslim ran for president of the US.The constitution does not prevent that from happening,but because our society is basically “christian,” few people would likely vote for him or her.Even JFK was vilified because he was Roman Catholic,not Protestant,and people thought he would be taking orders directly from the pope,or that birth control might be outlawed.Of course nothing of the sort ever happened,and Kennedy turned out to be one of our most popular presidents.
    Firas,I agree that democracy and institutionalized religion cannot co-exist.There must be separation of church and state, freedom of religion,and women must have equal status and rights under the law.But change does not come easily or quickly,and old habits and ideas die hard.And lest people think the US got it right from the beginning,slavery was legal til after the Civil war and women were not allowed to vote til the early 1900’s.

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