Jordan adds female noun for 'Jordanian citizen' to constitution
Jordan's parliament added the words "Jordanian women" to its constitution on Sunday in a move described as a step in the right direction by women's rights advocates.
Previously, the Jordanian constitution referred to its citizens in the male plural – the norm for the Arabic language when referring to a mixed gender group. With Sunday's amendment, the constitution will now refer to "Jordanian men" and "Jordanian women" separately.
The step was positive, but not a "big step forward", Oraib Rantawi, the founder and director of the Amman-based Quds Centre for Political Studies, told The New Arab.
"This doesn’t by default, mean any serious change when it comes to legal status for women in this country," Rantawi said.
The amendment to the constitution had caused considerable controversy in the Jordanian parliament, with debate erupting into a massive fistfight on 28 December. Both conservative and Islamist blocs had expressed their opposition to the change, for varying social and political reasons.
Salah Armouti, a Jordanian MP, said that the decision was motivated by foreign organisations who "paid for" the amendment to be passed, and that it would harm the public.
Others downplayed the significance of the constitutional change, saying it did not go nearly far enough.
"It does not touch the main issue when it comes to discrimination against women – including constitutional discrimination," Rantawi said.
He pointed out that article six of the Jordanian constitution – which prohibits discrimination and ensures equality "before the law" for Jordanians – does not give protections from sex-based discrimination.
The proposed amendment stems from a recommendation from the political modernisation committee. The committee was formed by the king in the summer and tasked with coming up with a series of recommendations to "modernise" Jordan's political system.
While some members of the committee pushed to amend article 6 of the constitution to include protections against sex-based discrimination, others flat out refused. The recommendation to add "Jordanian women" to the constitution was the final compromise that the members of the committee reached.
The change to the constitution grants no additional protection to women from sex-based discrimination. Further, while Jordanian law criminalizes some forms of violence against women, parliament has so far resisted penalising crimes like sexual harassment.
Citizenship in Jordan is patrilineal, meaning Jordanian women married to foreigners cannot pass on their nationality to their children.
Rantawi added that giving true legal equality to women concerns conservatives for this reason, as they fear a "demographic shift" should the sizable number of offspring from Jordanian-Palestinian marriages be able to access citizenship.
Jordan’s parliament will continue voting on other constitutional amendments this week. High up on the docket are amendments concerning a new electoral system, as well as the creation of a "national security council", which would give the king new powers to appoint and dismiss officials. Both sets of amendments are widely expected to pass.