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memri
January 3, 2018 No.
7260

Jordanian Writer: Women In Jordan Are Subjected Daily To Harassment, Denigration, And Denial Of Their Rights; Society Must Completely Change How It Treats Them

On November 21, 2017, the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle's Arabic-language channel aired a youth program on women's rights in Jordan, during which a Jordanian teen told of sexual harassment she had been subjected to and pointed out that when she went to file a complaint about it she was harassed a second time by security personnel. Mahmoud Al-Kharabsheh, a former Jordanian MP who was also on the program, shouted at the girl and expressed doubts about the credibility of her account. He stated that in Jordan there was no such thing as sexual harassment, and that with his statements he was defending the honor of his country. The program host, who defended the girl, argued with Al-Kharabsheh, and silenced him, and the latter walked out of the studio in a rage. Later on, Al-Kharabsheh announced that he intended to sue the channel for harming Jordan's reputation.[1]The program also featured interviews with young people, some of whom expressed radically chauvinistic views, one even saying that if his sister went to work during the nighttime hours, he would kill her.

 

To view a MEMRI TV program, click on the player below:

In response to these incidents, Nidal Mansour, director of the Center for Defending Freedom of Journalists, in Jordan, wrote an op-ed for the Jordanian Al-Ghad daily, under the headline "Stop The Violence Against Women." In it he attacked Al-Kharabsheh's statements and the chauvinistic statements by young people on the program. He Mansour wrote that the denigration and harassment of women and the denial of their rights was well known and recognized in Jordan, even if some tried to deny it, and that it was rooted in society, culture, and mentality. Therefore, he said, it was not enough to further amend the legislation recently amended in the country[2] in order to strengthen protection for women, but there was a need for society to completely change how women are treated.


Al-Kharabsheh (far left) during on-camera clash, which ended with him walking out of the studio in a rage. (Source: Raialyoum.com, November 22, 2017)

The following are translated excerpts from Nidal Mansour's op-ed:

"The program that sparked extensive debate in the Jordanian street did not reveal anything that was not already known. All that was said in it is known, everyone agrees about it, and the government recognized it even before the women's movements and human rights organizations did. Does the government deny that women do not have rights equal to men's? Does it not know that women's participation in politics is modest? Does it not know that there is a gender gap and that women's participation in the labor market is lower even though they are prominent in academic teaching? ...

"It is essential to present these fundamental assumptions in order to address the accusations levelled [by Al-Kharabsheh] during the show, in [his] unprecedented attack denying known data and statistics, and [his] doubts about the agenda of the program and his accusations of bias and lack of objectivity against the host. This was in addition to [Al-Kharabsheh's] failure to listen to the opinions of others sitting around the discussion table...

"I know that what was said [in the program] – denying women rights, ignoring [the issue], and evading it by [diverting] the discussion [to another issue pertaining to] state sovereignty – is nothing unusual. Likewise, I am not at all surprised that there are hotbeds [of bigotry] that encourage disparagement of women and impose masculine society, and it does not seem that this phenomenon is likely to end any time soon. What is regrettable is the fanning of flames of violence against women, denying that they are harassed, and accusing anyone who tries to raise their voice and warn against silencing instances of violation of [women's honor] of lying.

"Today, sexual harassment incidents are bringing down stars and political leaders across the world. Media organizations and political institutions are pursuing anyone proven to have carried out a crime of sexual harassment, even years previously, and women, some of them well known, are breaking their silence and revealing the crimes committed against them. After all this, some in Jordan are trying to say that this talk of sexual harassment in our country is completely fabricated, and accusing the victim who raised her voice of being the reason for what happened. This is in addition to accusing her of lying, doubting her [Jordanian] identity and hinting to the viewer that she is responsible for tempting [the men].

"The problem of sexual harassment is deeply rooted, and is defined [as a crime] by [Jordanian] law. What is most important for our country are its social, cultural, and mentality aspects. The recent amendments in the penal law strengthened the system protecting women from violence... and nevertheless, I think that this system needs [further] legislative amendments. For example, the labor law does not protect working women from harassment, and this [protection] is only covered in Section 29, which gives anyone who is sexually assaulted by her employer or his proxy and quits, the power to demand her rights and compensation.

"Women in Jordan are subject to verbal or physical harassment on a daily basis, and they are burned by the fire of silence because the injustice of society is like a merciless sword, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the law is just towards them. Our problem is more complicated than [mere] amendment of a law, and this television program expressed this by presenting young peoples' positions against women working during nighttime hours and even threatening to murder them if they do, since [according to them] doing so [violates] family 'honor.' These [young people] do not recognize that women are [living] entities [and do not recognize] their status [as adults] with a right to determine their own fate and make their own decisions about their lives. They treat them like bodies and nakedness, as if they are the patrons of women's existence, wishes, and souls, in the name of tradition and [on behalf of] the tribe.

"This program revealed nothing we did not already know; it exposed the dark opinions of some who seek to force these views on society. This prompts us to shout: Stop the violence against women, stop the discrimination against them, be just to them, and arrest those who pride themselves on harming the honor of women."[3]

 


[1] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 21, 2017; Raialyoum.com, November 21 and 22, 2017.

[3] Al-Ghad (Jordan), November 26, 2017.