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COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN EXAMINES THE REPORT OF JORDAN

16 February 2017

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today considered the sixth periodic report of Jordan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Saja Majali, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, introducing the report, outlined the exceptional challenges facing Jordan, such as security repercussions of the Syrian and other crises in the region, water scarcity, and the impact of a very large refugee population on national development.  Jordan was committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality, and it had taken important steps to strengthen women’s empowerment.  Parliamentary elections had been held last July, which had seen a historic election of 20 women to the Parliament, or 15.4 per cent of all seats.  Quotas for political representation of women at the governorate and municipal levels had been adopted, while the National Human Rights Plan contained a goal of empowering women for full enjoyment of their rights, reviewing the legislation and creating a safe environment for women.

Committee Experts expressed concern about Jordan’s backsliding on gender equality, noting the drop in ranking to the 140th position in 2015, and the non-implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations to prohibit discrimination against women and enshrine gender equality in the Constitution.  Experts stressed the need to harmonize the legislation with Jordan’s international obligations and urged it to follow best practices from other Islamic countries in revising legislation.  Jordan had a long history of generously hosting refugees, recognized Experts, who raised concern about discriminatory treatment of Palestinian women refugee from Syria, and about the increasing vulnerability of Syrian refugees, particularly women and children, to human trafficking as they had to engage in informal work to make a living.  Experts urged Jordan to actively use temporary special measures to counter customs, stereotypes and beliefs which held women back from full participation in public and economic life, especially as because of large number of highly educated women, Jordan was in a position to enjoy high-level leadership by women.  Other issues of concern to Experts were an increase in honour crimes, and a very high rate of domestic violence.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Majali reassured the Committee that Jordan would always work for the common good at the national level and reiterated the highest-level commitment to the implementation of the Convention.

The delegation of Jordan included representatives of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the Supreme Judge Department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs, and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be Friday, 17 February, at 10 a.m. when it is scheduled to examine the combined eighth and ninth periodic reports of El Salvador (CEDAW/C/SLV/8-9).

Report

The sixth periodic report of Jordan can be read here: CEDAW/C/JOR/6.



Presentation of the Report

SAJA MAJALI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, reaffirmed at the outset the political will of Jordan to realise justice, equality and equal opportunity, which came from the belief in equal rights enshrined by the Constitution.  Jordan was facing exceptional challenges due to humanitarian and security repercussions of the Syrian and other crisis in the region; it was the second most water-scarce country in the world and hosted the second largest refugee population, numbering 1.1 million, representing 20 per cent of the population.  Most refugees were Syrians, but there were also 16,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria as well as refugees from Iraq and Yemen.  Hosting refugees and the need to deploy a large military force to the border, which had been subjected to terrorist attacks, negatively impacted development efforts in the country, particularly in the area of health and education.

Jordan was committed to taking action to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, and had taken important steps to strengthen women’s empowerment.  The law amending the Constitution strengthened women’s  political and civil freedoms, affirmed that the family was the cornerstone of the society, and provided for mandatory education.  The package of new laws strengthening the rights of women had been promulgated.  The military pensions law 2015 reaffirmed equality between women and men in the matter of pensions, and the social insurance law 2014 had tackled the issue of deceased women’s salary which thereon was passed on as per same criteria as deceased men’s.  The Women and Family Committee had been introduced in the Senate in 2014 and the law on family reconciliation of 2013 had established the figure of conciliation officers throughout the country.  The staffing of leadership position law had been adopted to strengthen the representation of women in leadership posts, and the requirement for a woman to obtain her husband’s approval for travel had been repealed.

The protection against domestic violence bill of 2016 guaranteed a number of standards, such as protection of whistle-blowers, and the amendment 161 of 2016 provided for the effective protection of women against violence, including through shelters, until the case was settled.  In 2013, the Prime Minister had issued a number of circulars to all ministries to undertake a comprehensive review of legislation governing the work of all entities to ensure harmony with international instruments ratified by Jordan.  The objectives of the National Strategy for Women had to be taken into consideration in all policies, which needed to ensure gender mainstreaming.  Parliamentary elections had been held in July 2016, leading to a historic election of 20 women to the Parliament, representing 15.4 per cent of all seats.  Jordan had also adopted quotas for political representation of women at the governorate and municipal levels.  The National Human Rights Plan had been adopted and it contained a goal of empowering women for full enjoyment of their rights, reviewing the legislation and creating a safe environment for women. 

Questions by Experts

An Expert noted that the laws and initiatives undertaken to protect and empower women were not in fact fully complete; at the same time, the ranking of Jordan in terms of gender equality had dropped to 140th position in 2015 according to the Global Gender Gap.  A number of recommendations received during the Universal Periodic Review, namely to criminalize discrimination against women and to enshrine gender equality laws in the Constitution, had not been implemented yet.

Jordan had a long history of hosting refugees, but the Committee was concerned about the situation of Palestinian refugee women from Syria, who were discriminated against in comparison to the situation of Syrian refugee women.

Welcoming the adoption of the National Human Rights Plan, the Expert asked about the rate of its implementation, the participation of civil society organizations, and the implementation of recommendations concerning women empowerment.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding, the delegation stressed that, despite the challenges all countries in the region faced, Jordan did not waiver from its commitment to improve the situation of women.  Jordan was the closest country to Syria and had the longest border line with that country, and had witnesses an influx of refugees who all received services equal to those delivered to citizens – health, accommodation, education, social and rehabilitation services.  Jordan was the only country which provided free legal aid, inside and outside refugee settlements, on the same ground as to Jordanian citizens.  Services to refugee women were delivered without discrimination and were equal to services provided to Jordanian citizens.

Progress had been slow in the area of gender equality for the past four years, said the delegation, also because of the attitudes that prevailed in the Parliament.  Civil society organizations played a major role in advocating for women’s rights and pressuring the Parliament to adopt the laws which would guarantee gender equality.
 
The national plan on implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security had been adopted, in which civil society organizations played an important role.  The Government was coordinating with civil society in the allocation of financial resources provided under the Global Acceleration Instrument for the implementation of the resolution 1325.

Jordan was the only country which offered nationality to refugees, while in other countries they did not even have the right to work.  There was no discrimination in the treatment of refugees who came from Syria.  Many Palestinian refugees from Syria were in host communities and received support through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  There were approximately 16,000 refugees who lived in tented camps and received support from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.  Jordan made up for the financing shortfall and ensured that those refugees had adequate access to health and education.

Jordan had positively responded to the call to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender.  The Constitution guaranteed equal rights for women and men, and there was no need to enact a separate legislation on the matter.  One of the goals of the Jordan Vision 2016-2025 was the revision of laws and the removal of discriminatory provisions. 

There were no intentions for the time being to withdraw the reservations to article 9 and article 16 of the Convention.

In her follow-up questions, a Committee Expert congratulated Jordan for the adoption of a complaint mechanisms for women and asked the delegation to provide information on data and statistics to enable the Committee to assess women’s access to justice throughout the country.  Did human rights offices exist throughout all governorates?  Was the national action plan on women, peace and security agreed on by the Government?

Another Expert remarked that many of the Committee’s previous concluding observations had not been implemented, also due to the challenges Jordan had outlined in the introductory statement, and asked if there were intentions to adopt an action plan and a roadmap for the implementation of treaty bodies recommendations, which was a good practice in many countries. 

What steps were being taken to ensure adequate funding for civil society organizations, including women’s organizations working on peace issues, and for the implementation of the national action plan on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security?

What was the position of Jordan concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention?  The delegation was also asked how Jordan had taken into account the Committee’s previous recommendations to follow best practice from other Islamic countries in revising legislation.

Responding, the delegation said that a follow-up committee had been established to monitor the implementation of the plan of action on women, peace and security, and the finances were being distributed to partner organizations.  Jordan had been on the forefront of peacekeeping and support was being provided to the army to improve participation of women in peacekeeping and in the security sector and in the military.  It was important to say that there was a good societal understanding of the importance of that national action plan.

There were some challenges that civil society organizations experienced; they were often pressured, but there was a very good understanding among the government about the important role they had to play in many areas connected to peace and security agenda, and in access to justice.  Jordan was committed to ensuring that all women present on its territory enjoyed their rights, including refugee women, but sometimes that burden was too much for Jordan to bear alone.

Access to justice was guaranteed to everyone by law; Jordan successfully faced challenges in ensuring access to justice for refugees.  A bill had been prepared which would establish a national human rights institution and its branches throughout the country.  Those human rights offices in governorates would ease access to justice to people and would remove the need to travel to the capital.

Jordan took very seriously all observations and recommendations by treaty bodies.  There were different national mechanisms which discussed those and ensured follow-up.  One such mechanism was the National Human Rights Plan, whose third pillar related to the rights of most vulnerable, namely women.  It aimed to guarantee equality and equal opportunity for women and envisaged the revision of legislation to ensure participation of women in public and private life and to guarantee to women life in security.

The legislative system of Jordan was complex, and it ensured full autonomy of the management of women issues and human rights.  All legislation which was likely to ensure the respect of human rights was in the legal system and the guarantees were provided.

Questions by Experts

The National Strategy for Jordanian Women was the key tool for advancement of the rights of women, noted a Committee Expert and asked whether it was sufficiently equipped and resourced to carry out activities throughout the territory.

What was the role of the Commission in the implementation of the National Strategy for Jordanian Women 2013-2017?  Was the strategy result-oriented, with indicators and benchmarks, and did it have a clear monitoring mechanism?  How did the Strategy incorporate the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, and gender-related objectives contained in other Sustainable Development Goals?

Another Expert took up the issue of temporary special measures to accelerate gender equality and welcomed the statement in the Jordan Vision 2025 to provide work for all and the commitment to improve the enjoyment of women’s rights.  Temporary special measures were therefore a perfect tool to counter customs, stereotypes and beliefs which held women back from full participation in public, political and private life.  There were many highly educated women in Jordan, which meant that the country was in a position to enjoy high-level of leadership by women.  Women needed quotas for a period of time to ensure their presence in decision-making bodies.  What was the position of Jordan with regard to the use of temporary special measures?

Replies by the Delegation

The Jordanian National Commission for Women had received increased financing in 2016, which was the first time it had received funding in excess of USD one million.  The Commission did not have any executive powers, but instead it aimed to change attitudes and promote advancement of women.  It worked with the Government to change strategies and ensure their implementation.  The Commission based its work on the Beijing Conference for Women and its programme for work, and later on the relevant Millennium Development Goals, and it actively cooperated with civil society organizations in bearing pressure on the government.  The Commission was not in a position to measure the implementation of the 2013 plan of action, partly due to a lack of data and partly because of limited funding.  Projects were in place to achieve the goals of the plan, which would be presented in a workshop in May 2017.

The Commission was seeking temporary special measures to increase the political representation of women in the Parliament, governorate councils and in municipalities.  In addition, some 500 women had been trained in leadership and political participation, while cultural attitudes and stereotypical gender roles were being addressed through the use of media.  Societal attitudes were still not changing and women were still expected to play a central role at home; the Commission was therefore looking to create support for women at work.

For the past 23 years, the Commission had been examining the best way to be effective in influencing a political change in a given political context.  The Commission preferred to remain semi-governmental rather than governmental in order to remain its independence and its candid position vis-a-vis the government, the civil society, of the treaty bodies.  The process was more important than the framework - it was important to have a women’s movement which had  the power to influence the Parliament and the Legislative Council, which at the moment was not very supportive on the matters of quota for political participation of women.       

Executive power per se could not be very useful when issues intersected with mandates of other ministries, but it was more important to have an independent body which constantly pushed the Government.  Gender mainstreaming had been taking place for many years, and in close coordination with the National Commission for Women. 

Questions by Experts

An Expert welcomed the positive changes Jordan had made since the last review in addressing negative gender stereotypes, and stressed the need to harmonize the legislation with Jordan’s international obligations. 

What was the status of the revision of the criminal code to remove discriminatory provisions, which had been requested by women parliamentarians?

What was being done to ensure women’s access to justice through the training of judges, prosecutors and police officers in the Convention?  How were gender stereotypes addressed through education?  What was the role of the National Strategy for Jordanian Women in addressing negative gender stereotypes and harmful traditional practices?
 
Turning to the protection of women from domestic violence, the Expert asked about the guarantees in the reconciliation process that the security and safety of women would be ensured.  There were shelters for victims of domestic violence, but were they available throughout the country in adequate numbers?  Which services did they provide and how was the cooperation with non-governmental organizations taking place?  A number of women in protective custody was on the increase and it was crucial to ensure more guarantees in this process.

Another Expert welcomed the adoption of the national strategy to combat human trafficking, its action plan and the information gathering mechanism, and raised concern about the situation of some 53,000 female domestic workers, many of whom were subjected to forced labour.  Also of concern was the increasing vulnerability to trafficking of Syrian refugees, particularly women and children engaged in informal work.  Because of the criteria governing the use of free legal aid, victims of trafficking could not access it.

What steps were being taken to amend the anti-trafficking law to ensure that the victims were protected and to adequately prosecute and punish sex traffickers?  What was the situation in shelters for victims of trafficking in persons?


Replies by the Delegation

Negative stereotypes on the role of women in society were in fact the most important challenges Jordan faced.  Stereotypes persisted, even if laws were in place, and they also persisted among judges.

The strategy on human resources focused on the role of education in addressing stereotypes, and school curricula and textbooks were currently being revised.  In addition, there was a need to change the way in which teachers were being trained.  The National Commission for Women was regularly engaging the Ministry of Education with the view to affecting a change on the ground, and bringing about a human rights based approach to education of boys and girls.

Within the campaign of 16 days of activism against violence against women, an initiative had been started to adopt a national plan to be implemented by governors, and to increase the pressure on the legislators to increase the protection of women victims of violence.

There was one shelter for the victims of trafficking in persons, a human trafficking unit had been set up in the Ministry of the Interior, and there were several non-governmental organizations supporting the victims of trafficking, including their repatriation.  157 complaints had been submitted to the competent authorities.  The Prime Minister had adopted a decision to provide free health and psychological care to victims of trafficking.

The delegation explained that the legislative power in Jordan was divided between the Upper House and the Lower House of the Parliament; the bill on the protection of women from domestic violence had been introduced in the Parliament, which needed to take action.  In terms of training, the delegation stressed the key role of continued training of the judiciary and the police, and all other agencies and bodies involved in the promotion and protection of human rights, and the agencies delivering services.
On the dispute settling mechanism, the delegation noted that conciliation offices were not available throughout the country, but more would be opened.  Women could file a complaint through the conciliation offices, and could appoint a person to represent their rights.  There were oversight bodies which ensured that settlement agreements were fully implemented.  All information on settlement was confidential.  Another mechanism to protect the rights of women was a body which informed women about the right to appeal to a settlement dispute court.  No settlement decision could be adopted without an agreement of both parties; the court could over-ride the decision, open a hearing in the case and make a new decision.

In follow-up questions, a Committee Expert expressed her concern about the increase in honour crimes, from 15 per year to more than 40 per year and asked what was being done to address that problem.  The health survey of 2013 showed that 34 percent of married women experienced domestic violence, but more worrying was that 47 percent of surveyed women never sought help and never reported the violence.  It was commendable that Jordan had two reporting mechanisms for violence, but the Committee was very concerned that it required a presence of a guardian if the complainant was a woman or a minor.  Would the legal provision restricting the stay in the shelter for victim of violence to two months – which was not sufficient – be repealed?

The delegation explained that the gap that existed in the access to free legal aid was covered by non-governmental organizations which provided legal assistance to all regardless of nationality.

The bylaw on shelters had been introduced in December 2016, and the National Commission for Women was in the discussion with the Government on addressing specific challenges, for example the duration of stay or the possibility for women to keep male children with them.  The proposed law on domestic violence aimed to provide a better environment for women to come forward and report violence and find ways to guarantee that women and children stayed in the home and that the perpetrator was removed.

Often times in cases of honour crimes, the legal counsel would adopt a defence based on honour, however, criminal investigations were meticulous and could prove a situation where honour could not be invoked as a mitigating fact in a defence.  Rape was a statutory offence.  If a guardian did not report domestic violence, any other person could do it, and there were mechanisms in place for witness protection.

Questions by Experts

Taking up the questions related to the political participation of women, Committee Experts asked the delegation to comment on the recently adopted parliamentary election law, and on the decentralization law.  While the election of 20 women to the Parliament in 2016 was a success, the concern was about the rate of change and how long it would take to achieve gender parity in the Parliament.

Could the delegation inform on the working of the National Council for the Promotion of Political Participation of Women, and comment on the 2012 political participation act?  It was commendable that there were 189 women judges in the country, but it seemed that there were no women in the Religious Court, despite a number of women lawyers who had studied sharia law.

In 2012, the Committee had called for the amendments to the nationality act, which did not allow Jordanian women to pass the nationality to their foreign husbands or children born to foreign fathers, which was an example of discrimination based on sex.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that more than 50 percent of women in the country had registered to vote during the last parliamentary elections, and that 37 percent had actually voted.  The National Commission for Women stressed that, in addition to seeking to increase the quotas for women political representation, it was also training women.  It had trained 319 women possible candidates in all governorates on leadership skills, laws and on running their own campaigns; another 171 women had been trained in governorates affected by the refugee crisis.  Of the 20 women elected to the Parliament, 14 had been trained by the Commission.  Training was ongoing in governorates and municipalities in the run-up to the elections in August 2017.  The Commission also emphasized the important role of media in raising awareness.

It was not possible for a child to be born stateless, stressed the delegation. The law conferred citizenship to all children born in Jordan, including to children born in Jordan to stateless fathers or fathers whose citizenship was unknown.  For example, a child born in Jordan to a Jordanian mother and a Palestinian father would have father’s citizenship, unless the father was stateless, in which case the child would receive Jordanian citizenship.

Questions by Experts

A Committee Expert commended Jordan for the success achieved in the education of girls, noting that in 2013, the net rate of primary school enrolment for girls was 99 per cent; 83 per cent of girls were in secondary school and 51 per cent of university students were women.  Which strategies were in place since 2013 to improve the educational sector?  What was being done to address illiteracy rate, which stood at 9.9 percent?

On employment, the delegation was asked about steps taken to close the gender pay gap and about the mechanism in place to adjudicate wage disputes.  There was a strong vertical and horizontal job segregation, with 47 percent of women employed in the education sector and 14 percent in health. What steps were being taken to stimulate diversification of occupational choices, encourage women to take non-traditional jobs, and support upward mobility of women?

The Committee also raised the concern about reports of systematic abuse of domestic workers and asked how that was being addressed, including through the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention on decent work for domestic workers.

The delegation was further asked to explain what was being done to reduce maternal mortality rates and disparity in rates between rural and urban areas; mortality due to illegal abortion and the plans to decriminalize abortion, at least for cases of incest and foetal malformation; and to explain sexual and reproductive health education and how it included protection from sexually transmitted diseases.

Replies by the Delegation

Responding to the questions and comments made by the Committee Experts, the delegation said that Jordan had closed the gender gap in education and added that the concern was why that gain was not translating into greater economic participation and autonomy for women.  A lot remained to be done in changing societal attitudes on vocational training and occupational diversification – that remained a gender issue and not only women issue. 

Economic participation of women was the main concern, and the Government was finally starting to see it as a micro-economic issue and had included the goal of 25 percent women participation by 2025 in the Jordan Vision 2025.  The challenge was not only to close the gender pay gap, but to create a more friendly and equitable environment to facilitate economic participation of women, which included increasing access to day care for both women and men, developing a safe and efficient transportation, increasing maternity leave and introducing paternity leave, etc. 

There were more than 11,000 Syrian refugee children in child labour as well as more than 4,000 Jordanian children, and efforts were being taken to ensure their return to school, including by introducing free education.  Currently 170,000 Syrian children were in schools, of whom 24,000 benefitted from school meal programmes.  Two officers had been deployed in the Ministry of Education to monitor school drop-outs, while the Ministry of Labour increased inspections to identify instances of child labour.

In follow-up questions, Committee Experts noted the challenges of water scarcity and energy and asked how this was leveraged against the traditional openness towards neighbours, and about procedures in place to ensure that women were involved in the new era of sustainable development of clean and renewable energy.
 
The delegation explained  that abortion was permitted if mother’s life was at risk and in case of a foetal malformation, while an amendment had been proposed to the criminal code to legalise abortion in case of incest.  The climate change policy to 2030 had focused on gender mainstreaming and in 2016 Jordan had hosted a Conference on the role of women in countering climate change. 

Questions by Experts

Committee Experts noted that only 12 percent of beneficiaries of various financing initiatives to support economic activities were women, and asked whether there was an implementing legislation for the law on pensions.

Despite efforts and progress achieved in promoting the status of rural women, they continued to face challenges: women owned only three percent of agricultural land, they were poorer that their urban counterparts, and experienced barriers in accessing loans and credits. 

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation said that there was indeed discrimination on the basis of sex in the pension scheme, and the National Commission for Women was seeking to correct this and achieve gender balance and parity.  The Commission had also repeatedly asked for reassessment of micro-credit policies to ensure that women could access them and be empowered to manage their resources.  Twenty cooperatives had been set up to train rural women and enable them to participate in production chains, and training was being provided to women in decision making.

The bill on protection of persons with disabilities had been introduced, and it was hoped that it would be passed by the Parliament soon.

Questions by Experts

In the final round of questions, an Expert addressed the personal status law and asked about the status and timeframe of proposed amendments to the law, as well as the position of the Government on the demands by women to repeal certain provisions of the law which they felt were a violation of their human rights, notably the principle of guardianship of women, which limited their capacities and possibilities.  Jordan should look into the practice of other countries in the region which had successfully reconciled sharia law with their obligations under the Convention.

With regard to Jordan’s reservation to article 16(d) of the Convention, the Experts noted that a mother would lose a custody of the child if she remarried – how was that reconciled with the principle of best interest of the child?  A mother could not consent to a medical procedure on her child, it could only be done by a male; how was that based on religion, and not on patriarchy?

The age of marriage was 18, with the law gave judges the authority to approve marriage of children aged 15 and above under certain circumstances.  Was the statistics available on requests to approve early marriage and what evidence was there of judges exercising due diligence?  Which specific measures were being taken to address forced and early marriage among Syrian refugees?

Replies by the Delegation

In response to the issues raised about marriage and early marriage, the delegation explained that Syrian refugees had brought their customs and traditions with them, which Jordan could not prohibit, but it took a more useful measure which included the opening of an office in the Zaatari camp to ensure that contracts were in conformity with the law, all the while recognizing Syrian traditions. 

Jordan could not lift its reservation on article 16 of the Convention as it would open Pandora’s box.  Judge was the only person to determine the best interest of the child in line with its moral conscience.
 
Concluding Remarks

SAJA MAJALI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the delegation listened carefully to the Experts’ questions and comments even if it could not always agree with them, and reassured that Jordan would always work for the common good at the national level.  The commitment to implementing the Convention was at the highest level.

DALIA LEINARTE, Committee Chairperson, commended Jordan for its efforts and encouraged it to address various recommendations which the Committee would issue with the purpose of more comprehensive implementation of the Convention throughout the State party.



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