The Jordan Times
By Rana Al-Husseini
AMMAN — The women’s movement on Thursday met with the Senate’s Legal Committee and religious figures to discuss the 2018 amendments to the Personal Status Law (PSL), which was endorsed by the Lower House earlier this week.
On December 11, the Lower House of Parliament endorsed the PSL, which was passed as a temporary law in 2010.
The MPs went through 355 clauses in the temporary law during their two days of deliberations and made several amendments, which the women’s movement described as a setback that ignored many of their demands.
One of the MPs’ main changes, which the women’s movement said it was uniting to convince legislators not to adopt, was maintaining the age of marriage for girls who are 15, while using different terminologies to keep the status quo.
The 2010 temporary PSL law allowed marriage exceptions for minors who had completed the age of 15, while the amended version endorsed by the MPs earlier this week allows those who “turned 16” to tie the knot. A change in terminology means that, in reality, turning 16 means that the law can be applied only one day after the completion of age 15, critics have said.
The legal age of marriage in Jordan is 18 for men and women, but the law allowed for several exceptions for girls aged 15 and above, if a judge deemed it beneficial for them.
Many activists and women’s groups have been calling for cancellation of such early marriage exceptions. However, they said that if that was not possible, they at least wanted an increase from 15 to 16 in the age eligible for exceptions. They charged that the current law only contributes to increasing early marriages for girls who are under the age of 18.
According to the Chief Islamic Justice Department’s official statistics, there were 77,700 marriage contracts issued in 2017, of which 10,434 (around 30 a day) involved marriages in which the wife was under the age of 18.
The statistics also showed that divorce cases amounted to 5,335 in 2017, in which 413 cases involved wives under age of 18.
Former minister and lawyer Asma Khader told The Jordan Times during the meeting that around 460 families in Jordan are led by parents who are under the age of 18.
“This is unacceptable. In some instances individuals under 18 are considered capable to start a family and in other instances they cannot sign a rent agreement or be issued a driving licence,” Khader said.
Khader added that the women’s movement’s request to meet with the Senate and religious leaders stemmed from “our desire to protect Jordanian families”.
“We are hopeful to continue our debate with the Senate to reach a consensus on many clauses that would benefit Jordanian families,” Khader added.
The Jordanian National Commission for Women’s secretary general, Salma Nims, agreed with Khader, saying during the meeting that the women’s movement’s main aim is to ensure the stability and benefit of Jordanian families.
“Our demands do not contradict with the Islamic Sharia since we want to ensure that the Jordanian families are solid and strong,” Nims said.
Nims described the meeting as positive as the Senate members “who attended the meeting were in agreement with us and the major concerns we voiced today”.
President of the Senate’s Legal Committee Kamal Burhom, told The Jordan Times following the two-hour-long meeting that it was “positive and constructive”.
“Today’s meeting was very positive and we have to get used to hearing each other’s point of view in a civilised and constructive manner, since we all represent our society and want what is best for it,” Burhom said.