Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done
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Activists stage a sit-in near the government's headquarters in Amman to protest against the alleged killing of a Jordanian woman by her father for reasons related to 'family honor' on July 21, 2020. (Supplied)
Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done
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Activists attending the lower house session in August 2018 during which MPs abolished the controversial article 308 of the penal code (Petra photo)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done

Jordanian women have come a long way, but much work remains to be done
  • According to official estimates, Jordan’s unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2020 stood at 23.9 percent, up 4.8 percent compared with the same period of 2019

AMMAN: Despite improvements in the status of women in Jordan, more still needs to be done to address gender-based violence and increase women’s engagement in both society and the labor market, according to rights activists.

In remarks to Arab News on the occasion of International Women’s Day, women’s rights activists argued that Jordan has achieved “considerable” progress over the past 20 years in combating discrimination against women by revisiting laws and taking on the “social taboos” that keep Jordanian women out of the workforce.

They explained that these changes were the result of changes in society, underlining the need for more efforts at the institutional level toward improving gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Rana Husseini, a renowned women’s rights activist, said: “With regard to the achievements of the women’s rights movement, I would say that one of the most important accomplishments was the appointment of women in decision-making positions such as ministers, criminal prosecutors, ambassadors and judges. Now, you see women almost everywhere. This is a sign that society is more open now toward accepting and wanting women to be in positions of leadership.”

Despite changes to social structures and improvements in women’s rights in Jordan, the award-winning journalist said there are still problems related to women’s labor force participation and their employment status, citing the high unemployment rates among females.

According to official estimates, Jordan’s unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2020 stood at 23.9 percent, up 4.8 percent compared with the same period of 2019. The rate of unemployed males who hold a bachelor’s degree and higher reached 25.2 percent, while the percentage of unemployed females who hold at least the same degree increased to 77 percent.

“Despite efforts, economic participation among women is still weak,” Husseini said, adding that there were still many jobs occupied exclusively by men.

“There is still discrimination in the workplace. Job owners prefer to hire men to get around issues related to maternity leave and childcare.”

Honor crimes

On average, 10 to 15 women are killed annually in Jordan in the name of honor, Husseini said.

Husseini, who authored the hard-hitting book, “Murder in the Name of Honor,” explained that the figure has seen a “significant drop.”

“The number of the so-called ‘honor crimes’ reported in Jordan during the 1980s and 1990s was between 20 to 25, sometimes reaching 30 every year. Now, after all the work that has been done by activists, awareness campaigns, the government and all those involved in the fight, the number has dropped to 10 to 15 cases."  

She explained that Jordan has amended laws related to violence against women, toughening penalties and thus reducing honor crimes.

I would say that one of the most important accomplishments was the appointment of women in decision-making positions.

Rana Husseini, Activist

“There have also been changes to some important clauses pertaining to violence against women, such as articles 98 and 308 of the penal code. Article 308 used to allow a person who sexually assaults a woman to escape punishment if he married the victim. Now, this is no longer the case. The other change is that perpetrators of so-called ‘honor crimes’ are not receiving lenient sentences as they used to in the past. Now, the criminal courts and justice system are really treating violence against women and children very seriously, and they are bringing cases to court with strong evidence to implicate the defendants.”

Husseini explained that Jordanian laws no longer allow a lenient sentence for perpetrators of honor crimes.

“But we still have a problem with the waiving of rights that families can exercise while at court to reduce the sentence.

“Violence against women is not a phenomenon specific to Jordan or the Middle East region but one that is found all over the world. The difference in our region is that women are killed by their families and relatives,” Husseini added.  

COVID-19 pandemic

Jordanian women’s rights leaders said that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has exacerbated women’s troubles, worsening women’s economic participation and increasing gender-based violence.  

According to the Sisterhood is Global Initiative (SIGI), an independent organization seeking women’s advancement and empowerment through a range of education and advocacy programs, many women have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and have been subject to domestic violence.  

“The outbreak has proved the centrality of women in the society. The burdens of Jordanian women, especially those on the front lines, have increased during the pandemic, with many of them losing their jobs and suffering various forms of violence from their husbands, fathers and brothers. They have remained silent, in part to protect their families and children but also out of their deep belief that the current circumstances are exceptional and full of economic and social challenges,” SIGI said in a recent report.

Husseini said that lockdowns and curfews have been hindering NGOs and protection teams from performing regular check-up visits to vulnerable families and centers for victims of domestic violence and “family honor.”  

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, UN Women said that emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all forms of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified.

A recent study by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia concluded that the pandemic is expected to result in the loss of 1.7 million jobs in the Middle East region, including approximately 700,000 jobs held by women.


Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia
Updated 21 April 2021

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia

Sudanese commander says forces secured eastern border with Ethiopia
  • Karar reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to non-aggression towards neighboring countries

DUBAI: A senior Sudanese commander said on Wednesday that his forces have secured the eastern border with Ethiopia, state news agency SUNA reported.
Lieutenant General Issam Mohammad Hassan Karar said the army was deployed within the borders to secure agricultural areas and retrieve all Sudanese lands in accordance with the 1902 border.
Karar also reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to non-aggression towards neighboring countries.
Member of the council and head of the Revolutionary Front, Idris Al-Hadi, reconfirmed the statement.
“We will not seek the military solution to resolve the two issues of borders and water as there’s a possibility of resolving them peacefully,” he said.
The fertile Tigray region claimed by both countries has seen a rise in fights as Sudan sends in troops, which Ethiopia has described as an invasion.
The farmland borders Ethiopia’s Tigray region where Addis Ababa launched an offensive against the local leadership in November, sending some 60,000 refugees fleeing into Sudan.


Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
Updated 21 April 2021

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings

Syria loses chemical weapons watchdog voting rights after poison gas findings
AMSTERDAM: Syria on Wednesday was stripped of its voting rights at the global chemical weapons watchdog by member states after its forces were found to have repeatedly used poison gas during the civil war.
A majority of nations voting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) supported a decision to immediately revoke Syria’s privileges at the agency.

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media
Updated 21 April 2021

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

Syrian President Assad to run for re-election in May — state media

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday submitted documents to run for a third term in an election scheduled for May 26, parliament’s speaker said on state media.
Parliament announced the election on Sunday. Washington and the Syrian opposition have denounced it as a farce designed to cement Assad’s authoritarian rule.
Assad’s family and his Baath party have ruled Syria for five decades with the help of the security forces and the army, where his Alawite minority dominate.
This year is the 10th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters which triggered a civil war that has left much of Syria in ruins.
The multi-sided conflict has sucked in world powers, killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more, but is now nearing its end with Assad, supported by Russian and Iranian allies, back in control of most of the country.
Candidates must have lived in Syria for the last 10 years, which prevents opposition figures in exile from standing.


Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
Updated 21 April 2021

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines

Syria’s Idlib to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines
  • The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program
  • 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination

BAB AL-HAWA: A first batch of COVID-19 vaccine doses was expected to arrive Wednesday in war-torn northwestern Syria, where millions of people live in dire humanitarian conditions, a UN official said.

The 53,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were dispatched to the rebel-dominated region as part of the Covax facility, which ensures the world’s poorest economies get access to jabs for free.

“Once the vaccines arrive, we are prepared to start vaccination to priority groups through our implementing partners,” said Mahmoud Daher, a senior official with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).

The delivery will be the first to Syria as part of the Covax program, which has already sent vaccine doses to more than 100 different territories worldwide.

The vaccine doses are intended for the extended northwestern Syrian region, which includes the jihadist-dominated Idlib enclave.

The first categories of people to be vaccinated in the coming days in the Idlib region will be medical personnel involved in the battle against the pandemic and first aid responders.

The next group will be people above the age of 60, followed by people from younger age groups with chronic diseases, said Daher, who is based in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Much of the Idlib enclave is controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist organization that includes ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise.

Other regions of Syria will also receive vaccine doses through Covax, under which 92 countries are eligible.

Imad Zahran, a media officer for the Idlib region’s health department, told AFP that the vaccination campaign was expected to begin early next month and would last approximately three weeks.

According to the WHO, a separate 912,000 doses have been allocated to Syria for a first phase of vaccination in regime controlled and semi-autonomous Kurdish areas.

The aim is to vaccinate 20 percent of the population by year’s end.

Vaccination for health workers has started in government-controlled areas but not with doses received as part of the Covax program.

The official COVID-19 death toll in Syria is low compared to some other countries in the region but credible data collection across the conflict-ravaged country is almost impossible.

Syria’s war has killed more than 388,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.


UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
Updated 21 April 2021

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states

UAE receives Israeli envoy to Gulf states
  • Both sides discussed mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism
  • The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout

RIYADH: The UAE received Zvi Heifetz, Israel’s special envoy to the GCC states, in Abu Dhabi as both countries reviewed the progress of their bilateral relations since signing a peace agreement last September.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, welcomed the Israeli official to explore further UAE-Israeli relations and mutual cooperation in areas such as trade, investment and tourism, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

The two countries lead the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and during the meeting underlined the importance of accelerating efforts to ensure recovery from the crisis.

Last month, the UAE established a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel that include energy, manufacturing and healthcare.

Since the signing of the Abraham Accords, both countries have established reciprocal diplomatic missions, launched direct flights and held several trade visits – with the UAE attracting over 50,000 Israeli tourists.