I know I haven’t been living in Jordan long, but my first impression of the country is that it is not the stereotype of a strict Muslim country. Apparently, this impression isn’t completely naive, as Jordan was ranked as the 4th freest Arab country in the Freedom in the World 2017 report. However, the more I investigate into the country’s laws, the more I find that there are still many that are what I would consider as violations of basic human rights, especially when it comes to women’s rights. The following are some of the laws that I wouldn’t believe exist in modern-day Jordan if I hadn’t seen them in writing myself.
Laws about Religion
The Constitution provides for the freedom to practice the rights of one’s religion and faith in accordance with the customs that are observed in the kingdom, unless they violate public order or morality. The state religion is Islam.
Christians are allowed to practice their religion in Jordan, however, it is illegal to encourage conversion to the Christian faith. Certain sects of Christianity such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Christ are not officially recognized as religions.
Judaism is legal, but the monarchy still claims that there “are no Jews in Jordan.”
Attempting to convert Muslims or preach a different faith in public is illegal.
The Jordanian Penal Code prohibits anyone from blaspheming Islam, demeaning Islam or Muslim feelings, or insulting Prophet Mohammed. Violators can be liable for imprisonment up to three years.
Eating or drinking in public during Ramadan fasting hours – from dawn to sunset – is a criminal offense, punishable by up to one month in prison and/or a fine of 25 JOD.
Laws about Freedom Rights
Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association does not exist in Jordan.
Freedom of Speech
As of 2006, the denial of freedom of speech also applies to “electronic means”. Under this more recent amendment to Jordan’s Criminal Procedures Act, Jordan can prosecute an “electronic crime” committed out of the country if it affects the Jordanian people.
The law provides for up to 3 years’ imprisonment for insulting the king, slandering the government or foreign leaders, offending religious beliefs, or stirring sectarian strife and sedition.
Freedom of Press and Association
The Press and Publications Law and the Press Association Law place restrictions on the press and upon the publication of books in Jordan. Books are subject to surveillance and censorship.
Laws about Homosexuality
Jordan is one of the few countries in the Middle East where homosexuality is legal, provided that it occurs in private, does not involve prostitution, and only involves consenting adults.
Sexual orientation and gender identity issues remain taboo within the traditional culture and the government does not recognize same-sex civil unions or marriages. Homosexuals can be charged with adultery, as it is defined as sexual relations with anyone you aren’t married to, and the only legally recognized marriage in Jordan is between a man and a woman.
Laws about Drugs
Every type of drug except for tobacco and alcohol are illegal in Jordan. Possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs is a serious offense and can result in a lengthy prison sentence and a heavy fine.
If a person in Jordan is caught by the police possessing drugs for his/her own use (for the first time) the person will be go to jail for up to 15 days while the general prosecutor investigates. After up to 15 days in jail, the prosecutor will send him/her to the State security court in Amman for the judicial decision. If found guilty, the penalty for possession of drugs is between 3 months to 2 years in jail and penalty of 1,000-3,000 JOD.
Production, Sale, Trafficking
Jordanian law states that the death penalty can be applied to narcotics offenses. The 1988 Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances states that the death penalty is mandatory for repeated production, sale or trafficking offenses.
Laws about Driving Accidents
The driver is always guilty in an accident, and may be imprisoned or heavily fined, including compensation payments to all involved.
Laws about Capital Punishment
Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Jordan and in mainly sentenced for murder, rape, terrorism, drug trafficking, treason and espionage. Article 93 of the Constitution of Jordan holds that “no death sentence may be carried out unless ratified by the King. Every such sentence shall be submitted to him by the Council of Ministers along with the council’s view on it.” Fifteen executions have been performed so far in 2017. The method of execution is hanging, previously shooting was the sole method.
Laws about Picture Taking
Taking pictures of government and military buildings in Jordan is illegal. Violators can be forced to pay a fine or even receive a short imprisonment.
Laws affecting Women
Educated women were granted suffrage in 1955, but it was not until 1974 that all women received the right to vote and run as candidates in parliamentary elections.
In 1993, the first female candidate was elected to the lower house of parliament and the first woman was appointed to the upper house. An average of three ministerial portfolios has been assigned to women in each cabinet since 2004, and a gender-based quota system, first introduced for the lower house of parliament in 2003, was expanded to municipal councils in 2007.
There remains gender-based discrimination in family laws, in the provision of pensions and social security benefits, and on the societal level due to deeply entrenched patriarchal norms that restrict female employment and property ownership.
A Jordanian man may marry a foreigner and pass on his nationality to his children; women cannot. Nor can women pass on their nationality to their husbands.
Traveling with Children
Fathers can legally prevent their children from traveling regardless of the mother’s wishes.
Muslim women are prohibited from marrying men of other religions unless the spouse agrees to convert to Islam, while Muslim men are permitted to wed Christian and Jewish wives.
Divorce law is based almost entirely on Islamic Shari’a law, which is considered “unquestionable authority.” Variations in interpretation and application, however, do exist among Islamic courts across the Middle East. Divorces in Jordan, in particular, often ignore women’s rights and leave women with nothing if they are not supported by their families. In recent years, the government has worked to fix this problem by altering the judicial system. For example, “a new law has been drafted to force men to pay alimony for three years instead of six months, which was previously the case.” Because men are free to divorce and stop supporting their wives if they are “disobedient,” another law created an obligatory fund for divorced women, guaranteeing them a settlement from their ex-husband.
Permission to Work
Jordanian law suggests that wives should be obedient to their husbands because the men financially support the family, and if she is disobedient her husband can discontinue financial support.In addition, men have assumed the power to forbid their wives from working, and the Jordanian courts have upheld these laws.
Honor crimes/killings consistently occur and are currently on the rise. Honor crimes are acts of violence committed by family members against women who are perceived to have shamed the family in some way. Women can “shame” their family by engaging in “marital infidelity, pre-marital sex and flirting”, or getting raped. The Jordanian Penal Code (Article 340) today still includes provisions that excuse honor crimes by granting the perpetrator leniency in punishment because violence against women has traditionally been considered a “private matter” rather than the “responsibility of the state.”
Jordanian law (Article 308) states that rape is punishable by up to seven years in prison or capital punishment if the victim is aged 15 or under. However, rape and kidnap charges can be dropped if the perpetrator agrees to marry the victim for a minimum of three years.
Update: The Jordanian cabinet revoked Article 308, known as the “Rapists’ Marriage Loophole” on April 23, 2017. Source
Property Ownership & Inheritance
While studies of women and their property rights evidence that Islamic courts have “upheld women’s rights to property,” women in Jordan legally own and inherit less than their male relatives do. Throughout history and still today, when women have owned and inherited property, they have been frequently and intensely pressured to give up their land to male family members. As a result, less than four percent of all property in Jordan is owned by women.
You can find out more details about the above laws here.
Do you know of any other laws in Jordan that are shockingly still in existence? Comment below and let me know about them…