Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Jordanian Women's Political Participation: On the Verge of Arab Spring

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Jordanian Women's Political Participation: On the Verge of Arab Spring

Article excerpt


Recent decades in Jordan have witnessed considerable changes in women's roles in the political sphere and in the community. Jordan has passed, modified, or adopted legislation that fosters the rights of women and the abolition of discrimination against them. Women experienced real visibility in higher leadership positions with 10.8% in the lower house and 11.7% in the senate. Yet, while women cam higher levels of education, their participation in the labor market is relatively low, and those who want to join the labor force meet higher levels of unemployment. Although women have made real progress in the public sphere, their participation is still modest and needs to be fostered and enhanced. More needs to be done to educate Jordanian women on political participation, and on overcoming various obstacles that hinder their efforts towards more visible and effective roles.

Key Words: Jordanian women, political participation, Arab Women.


Political participation is not merely during elections of parliament officials and/or government activities, but includes holding key positions and participating in activities that affect the decision processes that shape individual and community life. Women's participation in political activities is among the most important issues that Jordanian society currently faces. Since the early twentieth century, Jordan passed through several stages that reflect the prevailing political atmosphere, be it restrictive or responsive. In recent decades, women's roles in community and public life have witnessed crucial changes thanks to the contribution of women's movements.

These transformations have been supported by the Jordanian government in response to the many calls to grant more attention to women's issues rather than to ignore them. Women's active presence in the public sphere is essential in community and societal development. Government actions such as the adoption and ratification of conventions on the rights of women and on human rights in general, were in response to global pressures and calls to update old laws and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The present study discusses various developments in Jordanian women's participation in major government and community structures up to the Arab Spring.

Jordanian and international legislation and women's empowerment

Decades ago women's requests focused on the rights to health, education, and employment. Later, they included demands for positions in higher levels of leadership and participation in community and political parties. Women's voices and efforts brought considerable change in the views of the community and the state to the point of acknowledging that equality between men and women in public life should exist in compliance with what the Jordanian constitution states: that all Jordanians are equal before the law, and that there should be no discrimination of rights and duties regarding their race, religion, or language.

Developments in Jordanian legislation and the recent constitutional amendment (2011) clarify that the term 'Jordanian' in the constitution encompasses "all men and women without discrimination." (2) Women were granted the right to participate in parliamentary elections as voters and candidates, according to the royal decree in 1974 and other Jordanian legislations. The National Strategy for Women 2006-2011 focused on a major section of legislative changes to grant more equality and justice to women. (3) The aim was to comply with international and Arab conventions that Jordan signed and ratified to affirm its commitment to human rights in general and to women's rights in particular. The Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and the concerned government institutions worked together to implement them. Women continue to demand improvements in the legal system to achieve the maximum level of justice and equality, and are ready to take on leadership positions that for so long were denied them because of social restrictions, especially in the case of women from the lower socioeconomic class. …

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