Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is putting pressure on Jordan to stop detaining women who go against its male guardianship system.
Women below the age of 30 require permission from a male guardian to get married, and sex outside marriage is punishable by up to three years in prison, under the country’s family law,
Amnesty released a report entitled “Imprisoned women, stolen children: policing sex, marriage and pregnancy in Jordan” on Wednesday that accuses Jordanian authorities of imprisoning women for disobeying their male guardians or having relationships outside of marriage. Amnesty called on Jordan’s capital city of Amman to “urgently address these shameful violations.”
“The government has taken a number of steps over the last few years to protect women’s rights, including opening of Dar Amneh shelter to address the problem of women being imprisoned for their protection,” Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told Global Citizen. “However, they need to expand these isolated reforms into comprehensive action to ensure women can make their own choices about where to live and who to marry, free from violence and coercion.”
The DAR Amneh safety house opened in 2018 and serves women at risk of domestic violence. But authorities continue to abuse the 1954 crime prevention law that allows local governors to detain people who are “about to commit a crime or assist in its commission” or anyone who if allowed would be a “danger to the people” for up to one year without charge or trial.
Jordanian women accused of leaving home without permission or having sex with men who are not their husbands risk imprisonment and “humiliating” virginity tests if male members report them to authorities, the report claims. Pregnant unmarried women also face “forcible separation from their newborn children.”
Imprisoned women, stolen children: policing sex, marriage and pregnancy in Jordan - new @amnesty report out today calls on Jordan to end the detention and ill-treatment of women simply for disobeying their male guardian or defying gender norms https://t.co/9sES66y6Inpic.twitter.com/A9T17sMI6c— amnestypress (@amnestypress) October 23, 2019
Amnesty interviewed 121 people for the report, including women held in Juwaideh prison, the country’s main women’s jail. Many of the women who were jailed were fleeing abusive environments.
A woman who goes by “Hanan” in the report, who is almost 20, was jailed for fleeing an abusive home alongside her sister.
“Every time we ran away, when we were arrested the police would take us to the hospital and my father would insist that they do the virginity tests on [us],” Hanan said. “Family Protection [police] made it very clear anyway, if our father asks us to do the test, we have to do it. It is his right.”
The office of the Jordanian prime minister told Amnesty that as many as 149 women are in prison for a variety of reasons and insisted that no woman is being detained for fleeing their home without consent, unless they also committed a crime or offense. At least 85 women have been held in administrative detention so far in 2019 for sex outside marriage “to ensure their protection,” the prime minister’s office said, claiming the majority had been released.
Jordan has economic incentives for ending male guardianship in the country, according to Amnesty’s Nassif.
“Ending administrative detentions would save the government money as imprisoning thousands of women over the course of the year is expensive,” he said.
Women’s rights advocates warn that until governments fully remove male guardianship systems, women will continue to be denied their basic rights and freedoms.