Pro-women activists say they're ‘demonized’

AMMAN — Jordan civil society and women’s rights activists often find themselves targeted with a narrative that demonizes them and labels them as agents of “foreign interference”, analysts said. اضافة اعلان

Among the issues that women’s rights activists are facing is the “demonization narrative”, which is propagated and circulated to echo a conviction that women’s rights activists are carrying a “malign agenda”.

“Jordanian Women have been fighting for their rights for decades, way before NGOs got involved. Some think that they can obstruct reform by demonizing calls for women’s rights; this is just absurd”, said Qais Zyadeen, a former MP.

Despite the fact that Jordan has moved up seven ranks on the gender gap index, according to a report by the World Economic Reform, the road towards complete equality remains bumpy, activists agreed.

Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, Salma Nims, highlighted the misconception of human rights conventions.

“Those who believe that these conventions are binding do not know what they are talking about. I think demonizing women’s rights activism stems from a patriarchal approach towards equality. Of course, equality also means that some will lose benefits”, Nims added.

“Not just in Jordan, but in many countries, some will start to broadcast messages and narratives insinuating that such convictions and calls for equality would lead to the decay of society and its values.”, Nims concluded.

Activists anticipate a counter-narrative “every time we try to rally for something”. Some believe that changes leading to equality would threaten their interests and a comfortable status quo.  

“No matter what it is, when it comes to women’s rights, everyone gets scared. There is a segment of people in the country who are benefiting from the current women’s rights situation and they would do whatever they can to keep it that way”, said Deema Al-Kharabsheh, an activist.

Lawmaker and head of the Islamist Islah bloc, Saleh Armouti, is a fierce opponent of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW).

“CEDAW contradicts the constitution in the sense that the religion of the nation is Islam and the articles in the conviction clash with the teachings of our faith. CEDAW interferes in issues such as inheritance, and polygamy”, Armouti told Jordan News over the phone.

“CEDAW aims to destroy social cohesion and family values and thus it projects a great threat to the security of our community,” Armouti, a veteran jurist, said.

A human rights activist who preferred to remain anonymous criticized the narrative adopted by women’s rights activists considering it to be “very confrontational, unconvincing, and shallow.”

“In many cases, the cause represents basic human values but the narrative adopted is repulsive and destructive.”

Commissioner General at the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR) Alaa Armouti stated that “while the center does not analyze narratives and does not take part in the controversy.”

However, the human rights commissioner told Jordan News that the rhetoric against international human rights standards is baseless, adding that “Jordan has ratified conventions and is adopting noble human values.”