Jordan may be experiencing a new era of political change. The nation is one where freedoms are very limited. However, the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has opened pathways to human rights reform in Jordan. Below are nine facts about human rights in Jordan.
Facts about Human Rights in Jordan
- Freedom of speech is limited in Jordan, especially when it comes to criticism of authority. Journalists, academics and artists can be imprisoned for “defamation” of the king, the government, Islam and foreign nations. A proposed reform issued to the Jordanian Parliament in 2015 would offer alternative punishments, such as community service, if implemented.
- Jordan recently loosened restrictions on public assembly through the 2011 Public Gatherings Law. This law allows for public demonstrations to be held without prior approval from the government.
- Women possess an equal right to participate in government, and 20 of Jordan’s 130 government representatives are women. Despite this, women in Jordan lack many of the civil liberties available to men. Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are unrecognized by Jordan’s government. Jordan’s nationality laws restrict women from passing their nationality down to their children and non-Jordanian spouses.
- Additionally, Jordan has one of the largest gender gaps in the world, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Jordan ranks at 134 of the 144 countries studied by the WEF. Though both men and women are comparatively well-educated in the region, women face several economic barriers that men do not. Women are given paid maternity leave and child care when entering the workforce but lack anti-discrimination protections, which encourages private businesses to hire men instead of women to avoid the cost. Many women also lack the right to inherit the wealth of their parents.
- Jordan also has a poor record of crimes against women. The law allows for perpetrators of “honor crimes” to be given reduced sentences. There are also penal code loopholes that allow rapists to escape prosecution if they have been married to their victim for three years. Recently, King Abdullah II endorsed a motion that would abolish these loopholes and it is expected to be ratified by Parliament.
- Jordan has been a leader in the Middle East for implementing regulations that protect migrant workers from forced labor and human trafficking. However, Jordanian law is set up in a way that still allows these abuses to happen. Migrant workers have limited freedom of movement and must get permission from an employer before leaving their houses; 50,000 migrant workers in Jordan are confined to their houses day and night. Employers are rarely prosecuted for violating migrant labor laws and Jordan lacks shelters for workers escaping abuse.
- According to the Human Rights Watch, local governors detained over 19,000 people without trial in 2015. Many of these people were imprisoned for a year or longer.
- Jordan has taken in over 650,000 Syrian refugees. Approximately 20 percent of them are living in refugee camps. The refugee crisis has put significant strain on Jordan’s public infrastructure. By November of 2016, Jordan received just 57 percent of the funding it required from the international community to cope with the influx of refugees.
- In March 2016, King Abdullah II released a 10-year plan to improve human rights in Jordan. The plan was developed with input from NGOs and aims to allow suspects a right to a lawyer, restrict the scope of the death penalty, hold public trials to keep police accountable for brutality and torture, strengthen freedoms of speech and assembly, pursue equal rights among workers, provide legal protections for the disabled and provide equal rights and opportunities for women. We have yet to see if the Jordanian government will fully commit to these reforms.
Though human rights in Jordan may appear to be improving, there is still a long way to go. Continued support of NGOs is essential to continue the development of human rights in Jordan.
– Carson Hughes