Still discriminating against women
Jordan signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on January 3, 1980, and ratified it on July 1, 1992. It submitted four periodic reports, as required, every four years, to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, delineating and underscoring its commitments and obligations to implement the convention.
Upon reading CEDAW, one still wonders, (29) years later, if Jordan is fully implementing this important international commitment.
” While discrimination against women is less felt in the public sector, few women have managed to make it to top posts, even though their performance is often exemplary and better than that of their male counterparts “According to the Department of Statistics, women represent only 21 per cent of the workforce; the unemployment rate among them stands at 47 per cent, which is more than threefold that among men, even though 43 per cent of women hold a high school and beyond level of education – slightly higher than that of men (42.7 per cent), and have proved they are better at achieving high Tawjihi scores.
In the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs), only 30 per cent of women working there, who incidentally make up the majority of the Jordanian workforce in the QIZs, are married, as employers are against hiring married women, according to a recent study. This practice needs to stop. The simple requirement that job applicants need not state their marital status could easily solve the problem.
While discrimination against women is less felt in the public sector, few women have managed to make it to top posts, even though their performance is often exemplary and better than that of their male counterparts. …
Given the chance, women may perform better than men. Sadly, discrimination also exists outside the workplace and can be more hurtful. Jordanian women that opt to marry non-Jordanians cannot give citizenship to their spouses and children, which is not the case for Jordanian men who marry non-Jordanians. Why should a man be able to give his non-Jordanian wife his citizenship while a Jordanian woman cannot?
The obvious reasoning of the legislator is that women are not supposed to go abroad and study, meet people there, fall in love and marry, while men can. Such reasoning is passé, to say the least. Furthermore, it not only causes great distress to households subjected to such discrimination, it also causes significant deadweight loss to the economy.
Jordanian women, our daughters and sisters, unable to settle with their non-Jordanian husbands in Jordan may opt to leave for the husband’s country of origin. Thus, their life labor, productivity and creativity go someplace else where men and women are treated equally. Given that some of these women are among the most educated in Jordan, the loss in brain drain is considerable in a country that espouses the principle that human capital is its greatest asset.
Their wealth, inherited or acquired through hard work, cannot be passed on to their children since they are not citizens and thus has to be sold and taken with them. Can Jordan afford to lose capital and export it to the advanced economies of the West?
I doubt it.
The uncertainty and loss of long-term planning for the many Jordanian women who opt to marry a non-Jordanian is also a loss to the economy. As the numbers grow, the losses accumulate and the problem bites more from our growth, development and competitiveness.
The so-called honor crimes are also a horrible manifestation of the discrimination against women. Reported court leniency towards male crime perpetrators is abhorring and shameful; it was reported to be on the rise during 2000-2004.
Recent improvements notwithstanding, much more still needs to be done in terms of changing the legislation, its implementation process and the institutions that safeguard it. The very mindset that underpins the crimes is consistent neither with religion nor with the very concept of honor under which it is camouflaged. My past and current research focusing on the roots of these crimes underscores the lack of honor in committing them and their economic, not “honor” cause.
Since we have made international commitments, it is time we fully abide by them. Information and the availability of the Internet have made disclosure easy; facts can no longer be swept under the long-worn carpet of ignorance. Jordan can be a model in the region, as it has been in many areas in the recent and not so recent past. It should lead in giving women what they rightly deserve: equal rights in every sense of the word.
*Published in Jordan’s THE JORDAN TIMES on August 11, 2009.
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