Lower House approves gender-sensitive constitutional change

We did not bow to pressures from donor institutions to pass this amendment — Maaytah

(Photos: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN  — The Lower House of Parliament on Sunday passed three amended constitutional articles, the most important of which is a new gender-sensitive title for the Second Chapter of the Constitution, which has become: "The Rights and Duties of Jordanian Men and Women" instead of "The Rights and Duties of Jordanians". A majority of 94 deputies voted in favor of the amendment, while 26 rejected it, and 10 deputies did not attend the vote, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.اضافة اعلان

This amendment is part of a package sent by the government to the legislature based on the recommendations of a Royal committee tasked with providing insights to modernize political life and develop legislation in the Kingdom.

On this occasion,Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs Musa Maaytah said that adding "Jordanian Women" to the title of Chapter Two of the Constitution came in "honor and respect of women", rejecting accusations by some lawmakers that Jordan "bowed to pressures from donor institutions to pass this amendment". He added that the concerns of some that this amendment would affect personal status issues were "unjustified", saying that the Constitution limited the power to rule on these issues to Sharia courts. Maaytah also said that granting Jordanian citizenship is governed by a law, the Nationality Law, which he indicated cannot be amended without referring to Parliament.

Later on Sunday, the House passed two more amended articles of the Constitution. A majority of 106 deputies voted to amend Paragraph 5 of Article 6 of the Constitution to read as follows: "The law shall protect the rights of persons with disabilities and promote their participation and inclusion in various walks of life. It (the law) shall also protect motherhood, childhood, and the elderly, take care of young people and prevent abuse and exploitation." Before the amendment, the text of the paragraph was: "The law shall protect motherhood, childhood, and the elderly, take care of young people and people with disabilities, and protect them from abuse and exploitation."

The legislators also approved the proposal to add paragraphs (6 and 7) to Article 6 of the Constitution to empower women and youth. The amended paragraph 6 reads as follows: "The state shall guarantee the empowerment and support of women to play an active role in building society in a way that guarantees equal opportunities on the basis of justice and equity and protects them from all forms of violence and discrimination." Paragraph 7 now reads: "The state shall guarantee the promotion of the values of citizenship, tolerance and the rule of law. It (the state) shall also guarantee, within the limits of its capabilities, empowering young people to participate in political, economic, social and cultural life, developing their capabilities, and supporting their creativity and innovations."

Meanwhile, 113 deputies voted in favor of striking out a provision proposed by the government on Article 32 of the Constitution, which stated that "the King shall be the head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Council". The House is set to vote on 27 more amendments to the Constitution on Monday.

At the onset of Sunday’s session Speaker Abdel Karim Al-Doghmi offered his apologies to the Jordanian people and to fellow lawmakers for the chaotic session of last week when a number of MPs got into a brawl that ended with fistfights apparently over disagreements regarding the implications of adding “Jordanian women” to title of chapter two of the Constitution. But complaints filed by other lawmakers have now been referred to the Legal Committee.

In contrast to last Tuesday’s session, yesterday’s was well managed where dozens of lawmakers made their position clear on the suggested amendment in an orderly manner. State Minister for Legal Affairs Wafaa Bani Mustafa told MPs that the addition of the gender sensitive “Jordanian women” to the title should not be read separately but within the framework of the entire Constitution whose articles complement/preserve each other. Other lawmakers stated that the amendment is a formality and does not change anything on the ground.

The Lower House will resume its debate of other constitutional amendments throughout the week.

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