26 January 2000


Press Release
WOM/1165



WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF JORDAN’S REPORTS

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The Government of Jordan was preparing a draft penal code on State protection of women from various forms of violence, the Jordanian delegation told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning as it concluded its consideration of Jordan's initial and second periodic reports on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Responding to experts' questions about the reports, Amal Sabbagh, Secretary-General of Jordan's National Commission for Women, said pressure groups had been set up to convince the National Assembly of the need for legislation that would be advantageous to women. Jordan’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women reflected the Government’s commitment to that instrument.

She said cultural programmes on television and radio were among the means employed in the fight to eliminate the stereotyping of women, although the problem persisted in the airing of television commercials and other programming.

Aida Gonzalez Martinez of Mexico, Committee Chairperson, commended Jordan’s efforts to promote education for women. However, the Committee was seriously concerned about the effects of violence against women in the home, in marriage and in society at large. The Committee was also concerned about the lack of recognition of women’s right to maintain their nationality.

She said there was a reluctance to enable women of any age, particularly young women and children who were victims of rape, including incestuous rape, to seek legal redress.

Additional comments and questions about the Jordanian response were made by the Committee experts.

The Committee’s next meeting will take place at 3 p.m. today, when it will hear responses to questions about the initial report of Myanmar.



Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee - 2 - Press Release WOM/1165 456th Meeting (AM) 26 January 2000

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to hear replies by the delegation of Jordan to questions raised by experts about Jordan’s initial and second periodic reports (documents CEDAW/C/JOR/1 and 2) on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. [For background on those reports, see Press Release WOM/1157 of 20 January.]

Statement by Government

AMAL SABBAGH, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, said that Jordan’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women reflected the Government’s committal to the issue. The Kingdom had already undertaken action to publicize and implement the Convention.

Regarding articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, on equality between men and women and discrimination, she noted that the Jordanian Constitution had already confirmed equality and non-discrimination. She stressed that the State practised no discrimination regarding persons’ rights irrespective of language, religion or gender, as well as other constitutional rights based on equality.

She said that women had already been placed in the police force and the judicial system and were being appropriately trained. Some had been accorded high rank and positions. The Government recognized that the justice system was very important in securing the international laws in the State; those laws had been included in all university curricula.

Referring to the question on the State’s protection of women from various forms of violence, she said the Government was currently preparing a draft penal code to that effect. She pointed out that in the case of divorce, the Code took all measures to protect both spouses, and it was only allowed if it was the woman’s option.

Turning to the issue of refugees, she said that those Palestinians who had remained in Jordan in 1948 were citizens of the State and enjoyed all rights associated with that status. Palestinian Arabs could carry a passport, and many of them were high functionaries in the Government.

With regards to article 3, on the rights of women, she said that pressure groups had been set up to convince members of the National Assembly of the need for legislation that would be advantageous to women. Also, cultural, television and radio programmes, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were used to eliminate stereotyping, although the problem persisted in the airing of television commercials and other television programming. However, the past decade had witnessed a transformation in women’s participation, particularly in parliamentary discussions since 1997.

Responding to questions relating to article 5 -– stereotyped roles for men and women -- she said that although it was not easy to measure progress, the National Committee was working on two tracks -- the first, educational; and the second, at the information level. The lack of sufficient funds to start and finish programmes hindered the information strategy, and changing education curricula and stereotypes was a costly process. However, the National Committee would not retreat from either track.

She said in reference to article 7 –- political and public life – that the National Committee had held many training sessions to provide women representatives appointed to village and provincial councils with the necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities. They had performed very well. The National Committee had helped many female election candidates. It had elaborated an intensive training programme on how to run campaigns and called in many experts from outside Jordan to help in that project.

She said that appointment to the King’s Council was a significant achievement for Jordanian women. It gave them a forum to support the interests of women, as members of that body were constantly in contact with the National Committee and NGOs. Following the lack of success of women candidates in the 1997 elections, the National Council and other women’s organizations had made intensive efforts to reserve 20 per cent of parliamentary seats for women.

Concerning State support for NGOs, she said allocations amounted to 3 per cent of the Ministry of Social Development’s annual budget. The major women’s organizations received annual allocations from the Finance Ministry. The National Committee could not submit direct contributions, but extended technical support.

On representation of women at the international level (Article 8), she said the highest-ranking woman in Jordan’s diplomatic corps was a counsellor. There had been a woman ambassador in the 1980s, and women had continued to enrol in the national diplomatic training institute since its inception.

On the question of study abroad, she continued, statistics clearly indicated that illiteracy was greater among older people. Non-governmental organizations had impelled those people to learn to read and write, and the Ministry of Education was obliged to provide materials for that actualization.

She said that statistics did take account of women who did not find work on completion of their professional training. Therefore, the Government was trying through its development plan to assure a natural increase. The national strategy for women also involved the private sector, and had developed programmes for financing micro-enterprises, as well as for organizing the labour market and providing training.

Regarding article 12, on the right to health, she stated that all of the services provided to women, including health, involved Palestinian women. The Government had launched a successful programme -- “Altogether a Happy Family” –- that encouraged male participation.

She said that in 1999 AIDS statistics showed that 22 per cent of those infected were women. Eight-five per cent of them had gotten AIDS outside of Jordan. Regarding drug addiction, of the 745 cases recorded in 1999, only 1.5 per cent of those were women.

She further stated that, recently, the Government had studied income tax policies and, during the next month, amendments to that law would be reviewed to ensure that they reflected concerns of Jordanian women. Jordan’s current financial situation prevented establishing a bank for women so they could take loans to improve their living conditions. The Government was trying to ease poverty and unemployment by creating a three-year programme to provide assistance to the unemployed. Important Government initiatives dealt with micro-projects, and the Social and Development Plan had included objectives that would benefit the rural woman.

Regarding article 15 –- equality before the law and in civil matters –- and article 16 –- marriage and family relations -- she said reservations had been entered with respect to certain paragraphs. Jordan might reconsider those reservations pending consultations on legal questions.

An amendment had been entered concerning the question of polygamy, she said. That amendment, which could lead to the development of a new national code, was being studied by the Government and would be presented to the Cabinet.

She said that a woman could be granted divorce in cases where she risked being harmed, the husband’s desertion or his imprisonment for more than a year. In such cases, a woman had the right to custody of her children without regard to her nationality.

Questions and Comments by Experts

An expert said Jordan lay in a geographical area where the advancement of women was crucial. Every advance was an advance for their political, social and economic development.

Once again, it had been demonstrated that Islam and sharia (Islamic law) were compatible with international law, she said. The rate of education and training for women was quite acceptable, and an educated young woman would not accept a status below that of a young man.

Another expert said that the second report demonstrated that great progress had been made in Jordan, compared with the situation when it had submitted its first report. That reflected the social and political will to accept the Convention and to ensure conformity with its provisions.

Seeking clarification about the nationality of Jordanian women who married non-Jordanians, she said their status was not determined under sharia. While it was understood that there was a will to amend existing legislation on that issue, the delegation’s reply had not been quite clear.

She said that the loss of nationality upon marriage was based on a perception that a woman would join her husband in his country and nationality. However, the situation today clearly showed the inaccuracy of that perception. The basis for the loss of nationality no longer, applied and the relevant law should be reviewed within a given time frame.

Noting the explanation that abortion was not available to women who fell pregnant as a result of rape, she expressed the belief that a way could be found in sharia to allow that option.

Also seeking clarification on Jordan’s laws on rape, another expert noted that the delegation had stated that death was the penalty for child rape. But the report referred to different punishments for rape of a child under 12, as opposed to rape of a child under 15.

On the status of the Convention in Jordan’s legal system, she said the Committee had been advised that, once ratified, treaties became enforceable in national law. Steps were being taken to ensure that the Convention became enforceable. Once it became enforceable, it superseded other laws. What were the implications of that, and what would the enforcement mechanisms be?

Another expert said that while both the report and the delegation’s replies showed the Government’s deep commitment to the Convention, much work remained to be done in certain areas. Firstly, regarding the reservations, she urged the Government to avail itself of ongoing interpretations of sharia.

She said the legal status of the Convention must be achieved soon. It was necessary to disseminate information to show that sex was not grounds for discrimination and to publicize the definition of discrimination. Either the Constitution must be amended or its contents must be made available to educate the people and empower women.

The National Commission had done a thorough job, she said. However, it was limited in its power to achieve equality for women. The Government should either consider giving the national machinery the power to receive complaints or making it part of the Government. Political will must be institutionalised to ensure equality.

Another expert underlined the continued existence of legal constraints to women’s rights in Jordan. The National Committee should concentrate its efforts on publishing the Convention and abolishing article 340 of the Penal Code. The succeeding draft would contain provisions that were entirely in line with the Convention.

She urged the National Committee and the Jordanian Government to adopt the notion of women as human beings in their own right and not merely as members of families or players of certain roles.

Ms. SABBAGH said that the Jordanian delegations mission did not end with today’s meeting. It would be returning home to report to the Government and convey the Committee’s views on Jordan’s reports.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ of Mexico, Committee Chairperson, reiterated the Committee’s commendation of Jordan’s efforts to promote education for women. She said, however, that the Committee was seriously concerned about the effects of violence against women in the home, in marriage and in society at large.

The Committee was also concerned about the lack of recognition of the women’s right to maintain their nationality, she said. It was hoped that article 340 of the Penal Code would be amended so that its current provisions would be null and void.

She said there was a reluctance to enable women of any age, particularly young women and children who were victims of rape, including incestuous rape, to seek legal redress. Victims could resort to abortion when they became pregnant as a result of such acts, she noted.

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