Adding the Feminine Noun to the Constitution: Now What?
While adding the feminine form of the word is considered an act of “honor and respect to women," it might be a way to deviate attention from the real problem.
On January 2, 2022, 94/130 members of the Jordanian Parliament voted in favor of adding the feminine form of the Arabic word “Jordanian” to the Second Chapter of the Jordanian Constitution, which used to read the “Rights and Duties of Jordanian Men." The suggestion of this amendment precipitated considerable controversy amongst the MPs, which finally led to a physical brawl in the parliament. Some deputies angrily considered it “useless” and “anti-Islamic”. How can acknowledging the female citizens be against Islam if the Quran itself always addresses the feminine and masculine tenses when referring to all Muslims?
While adding the feminine form of the word is considered an act of “honor and respect to women," as the Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs, Musa Maaytah, stated in Jordan’s State Media, it might be a way to deviate our attention from the real problem. This constitutional change “is running away from the elephant in the room," said Salma Nims, the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) Secretary-General, referring to the continuous neglected demands of female activists to add the word “gender” to Article 6 of the Jordanian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination based on “race, language, and religion." Additionally, a professor at the Hashemite University of Jordan, Dima Matruk, claimed that the amendment lacks any legal benefits for women and is only used to “beautify the picture."
In 2011, lawyer and women’s rights activist, Rehab Qaddoumi, shared her frustration with the exclusion of the term “gender equality” from the Jordanian Law, insisting on the fact that it deprives women of their deserved rights. Moreover, on International Women’s Day in 2021, the National Center for Human Rights emphasized the importance of constitutional reforms to reach gender equality. Nonetheless, the demands to bring women’s rights to the table in Jordan continue to be neglected and denied.
Some justify this by saying that the addition of “gender” to the law will cause issues related to citizenship. Jordanian women, unlike Jordanian men, cannot pass their citizenship to their children. Therefore, some politicians claim that Jordanian women passing their citizenship to their Palestinian husbands and children could feed into the Israeli plan of the “Substitute Homeland”. However, it does not seem to be a concern when it comes to Jordanian men passing their citizenship to their Palestinian (and foreign) wives!
Given the resistance of the Jordanian male “guardianship society” to change laws that lead to prejudice against women, many main questions remain unanswered: when will gender equality be established in Jordan? Until when will Jordanian women have to strive for their deserved rights and opportunities? Until when are we going to speak in the name of religion to block the emancipation of women in Jordan?