Jordan: Women activists prepare CEDAW shadow report

Karama Group of Jordan: Delegation to the United Nations' CEDAW Committee Meeting: 39th Session - 30th of July 2007- NYC
Last week, V-Day Karama coordinated a delegation of NGO women to deliver the first-ever "shadow report" for Jordan at the 39th session of the United Nations' CEDAW committee meetings. At this session, the government of Jordan presented its report on compliance with CEDAW-the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Meanwhile, the "shadow report," prepared by Jordanian advocates for women's rights, details the government's areas of non-compliance and recommends policies to improve Jordan's protection of women's legal rights and safety from violence. The prevalence of violence against women represents one of the greatest challenges to Jordan's government today.
To build weight behind the "shadow report," the Karama Group of Jordan formally submitted it in July to the UN CEDAW Committee, a panel of 23 experts from around the world that reviews each nation's compliance report every four years. On August 2, 2007, at the Committee's formal hearing of the Jordan reports, our NGO delegation issued an oral statement and observed the Committee's questioning of the Jordanian government representatives.

Our delegation also represented Jordanian civil society organizations in the NGO Caucus Meetings of groups attending the CEDAW sessions. The delegation included: Leila Naffa of Arab Women Organization of Jordan, Fatima Dabas of the Arab Human Rights Organization, Nour Al Emam of the Arab Women Media Centre, and Afaf Al Jabiri, the Regional Coordinator of Karama. In preparation for their role, the delegates attended a Global to Local training program offered by the International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) - Asia Pacific.

"This is what I wanted to do all my life, I was so thrilled to be able to do this," remarked Leila Naffa.

In the oral statement to the UN CEDAW Committee, with the support of the NGO Caucus, our group put forward the following issues about Jordan and CEDAW:

We noted with gratification that on July 25, Jordan's government published CEDAW in the National Gazette, more than 15 years since the ratification. Publishing a law in the National Gazette makes it legally binding on national legislation. Next, to bring national law in line with CEDAW in practice, the government must do the following:

First, lift all remaining reservations to the CEDAW articles, and ensure women's equality under the law to be able to pass her nationality to her spouse and children, as men are currently entitled to do.

Second, adopt a National Strategy to end violence against women, enacting new laws in the Penal Code that criminalize VAW and punish perpetrators not women. Specifically, stop the jailing of women for their "protection" when their lives have been threatened by family members, and secure these women a place at the national shelter-which should expand to multiple shelters.

Third, enact and develop enforcement of legislation to prohibit sexual assault in the workplace and gender-based discrimination at all levels of employment and benefits. Extend the labour law's protection and benefits to include informal sectors where women are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse: as domestic workers; gardeners; cooks; or as family members in a family business who work without receiving pay.

Fourth, amend Article 6 Paragraph 1 of the Constitution, which indicates that all Jordanians are equal before the law and there is no discrimination between them, to specify equality according to "sex" alongside "language," "religion," and "race."

Fifth, Government should amend the Jordanian Personal Status Law to remove articles that do not ensure women's equal rights with men within marriage.

For example, the legal minimum age for marriage was amended from 15 to 18 for both boys and girls; however, a judge can conduct a marriage for a girl under 18 if it is in "her interest." This exception should be eliminated.

Sixth, the Government has yet to ensure equality in political participation. A quota of just six women out of 110 was filled in the previous election of the parliament. The government needs to undertake new policies and measures to ensure better participation of women in political and public life. A quota of at least 30% should be adopted at all decision making levels.

The Government's response to the NGOs demands, which came through the hearing session where CEDAW committee raised all of these issues, was very positive as the head of the delegation minister Muhi Elddin Touq assured to the CEDAW committee that the government in the process of issuing new laws including a law that criminalize domestic violence and a law that ensure non-discrimination against women at all levels. He stated that the time predicted to finalize such laws will be within two years.