Children of Jordanian mothers have fewer rights at higher costs

1. Children of Jordanian Women Have Fewer Rights CHE
(Photo: Handouts from ARIJ)
AMMAN — Questions came to the mind of 19-year-old Ayham when the cashier at the Traffic Department in Amman asked him to pay JD154 for a Jordanian driver’s license. اضافة اعلان

He only had JD38, since this was the fee his friend paid recently when he applied for his driving license.

“How is my friend different from me?” asked Ayham. “He and I were born the same year in Amman, and we speak the same dialect. We sang the national anthem and saluted the flag together at the same school.”

Ayham sighed as he asked the cashier for the required amount again. His response was, “Sorry but you are not Jordanian”.

Ayham replied “I am the son of a Jordanian woman,” to which the cashier at the window responded “they are not (considered) Jordanian citizens.”

Jordanian women’s children who reside in the kingdom pay higher fees than citizens when they request or certify official documents, or when they renew their driver’s licenses.

Ayham’s case is similar to 21-year-old Mohammad, who travelled abroad to complete his education. Once back, he approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates to certify his degree. This was possible for a fee of JD5, whereas Jordanian citizens pay only JD2

“We are being treated as foreigners,” a frustrated Mohammad said.

There is no recent data on the number of children to Jordanian mothers. But in 2014, the Jordanian Ministry of Interior said that there were more than 355,000 non-Jordanians whose mothers were Jordanian citizens.

A report by the New York-headquartered Human Rights Watch said that those individuals usually endure hardship in accessing basic rights and services. It said the authorities also restrict their right to work, to own property, and to travel. They also have limited access to public-funded education and healthcare.

The hardships drove Jordanian mothers, who are married to foreigners, to stage protests and sit-ins to draw attention to the discrimination against their children. This included a campaign called “My Mother is Jordanian” and the coalition of “My Right, My Family!”

Consequently, the Cabinet said in 2014 that it was easing the restrictions by granting children of Jordanian women some privileges.

But the discretionary treatment was limited and did not meet the aspirations of the children of Jordanian women, said Rami Al-Wakil, the coordinator of the “My Mother is Jordanian” campaign.

“The privileges and leeway are limited to certain areas and are not comprehensive. For example, they are treated like Jordanians in primary and secondary education,” he said.  “When it comes to university education, only 150 seats in public universities are reserved for the children of Jordanian women on a competitive basis, while the rest are registered as foreigners through the Parallel system.”

 “In healthcare, children of Jordanian women up to the age of 18 years are treated like Jordanians, but after that age, they are treated as foreigners,” he added.

Human rights activist Inaam Al-Asha said “Children of Jordanian women were given the ‘Package of Citizenship Rights for Children of Jordanian Women’. This includes the right to residency, work, education, and medical care, but not the right to political participation.”

She said the government move was a step towards reducing the hardships and difficulties faced by the children of Jordanian women.
Is discriminating against children of Jordanian mothers a constitutional violation?
Discrimination against the children of Jordanian women married to foreigners happens despite the fact that the constitution guarantees their mothers the right to equal treatment. Article (6) states, “Jordanians are equal before the law, and there shall be no discrimination among them in rights or duties regardless of their race, language or religion.”

The Jordanian National Charter also stressed this right. It stated: “Jordanian men and women are equal before the law; there shall be no discrimination among them in rights or duties regardless of their race, language or religion.”

Some constitutional amendments also went into force with the publication of the 2022 draft amendment to the Jordanian Constitution in the Official Gazette, issue number 5,770.

The 14th amendment to the Jordanian Constitution of 1952 covered 25 articles in addition to including the phrase “Jordanian women” in the title of Chapter Two of the constitution. It was approved by the Senate and members of the Lower House of Parliament.

Despite the guarantees under the law, children of Jordanian women continue to suffer from the discrimination of the law against their mothers, which deny them access to basic services and opportunities, like other Jordanians.

Al-Asha, the lawyer, said that “the constitution ranks top in the legal hierarchy. Other laws, therefore, rank lower on the scale, and they cannot contradict the text of the constitution.”

“However, this constitutional amendment rendered the text at odds with the constitution, and any such texts containing discriminatory language showing bias or inequality among Jordanian men and women must be reconsidered,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Lower House of Parliament agreed to add the phrase “Jordanian women” to the title of Chapter Two of the constitution, so that this title would become “The Rights and Duties of Jordanian Men and Women.”

Citizenship maybe the answer to ending discrimination
Human rights consultant Riyadh Al-Suboh said that the solution lies in granting citizenship to the children of Jordanian women, so they can enjoy all civil and political rights.

 “The issue of the children of Jordanian women is often discussed as a political and social matter, and is not seen from its human rights perspective,” he said.

Asha said that “civil society organizations are hoping that the amendment to the constitution would warrant a reconsideration of the Jordanian citizenship law, as nothing guarantees the rights and determines the duties like citizenship does, as it seals the bond and regulates the relationship between a person and the country in which he lived and grew up.”

Until a solution that does justice to this category of people materializes, Ayham and other children of Jordanian women married to foreigners continue to live in a country they consider home, but are frustrated when they encounter discriminatory situations.

“We are residents of this country. We are citizens by emotional belonging, but not on official papers,” Ayham said.

This story was previously published by ARIJ.

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