Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

A Comparative Study in the MENA Region within Gender Equality Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

A Comparative Study in the MENA Region within Gender Equality Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Bahraini constitution of 2002 in Article 1(e) (3) and Article 18 (4), as well as the Jordanian constitution in Article 6(i), (5) clearly states the principle of equality among all citizens in all political, social, and economic aspects. Both constitutions grant equal opportunities to all citizens, the right to work and to select the kind of work. Article 6(ii) (6) of the Jordanian constitution and Article 13(a)-(b) (7) of the Bahraini constitution grant citizens equal opportunities in obtaining public jobs, with no discrimination related to origin, language, religion, faith, or others. Moreover, both countries give women equal opportunities to enjoy their legal rights, such as the laws that bestow women the right to make contracts of their own and to administer their own property. Although women's rights in Bahrain and in Jordan are subject to the constitutional laws, it is the laws of the private sphere-family law-in Article 103(ii) (8) in Jordan, and in Article 2 (9) and Article 5(b) (10) in Bahrain-"natural" vs. "positive" law-that poses flexibility in both legal systems (Al-Rabadi, 2012).

Hijab argues that articles of the family law disagree with the constitutions in the region. Constitutions in most of the Arab states that have them, assure equal rights for all citizens, but under the family law, women have unequal rights (Hijab, 1988: 14).

Moreover, according to Zuhur, the wording of these codes permits limitations of women's rights (Zuhur, 2005: 10). To elaborate more, Offenhauer explains that the dual legal system in these states is arranged, on one hand, on a civil code and on the other hand, on a personal status or family law, mainly based on Shari'a law (Offenhauer, 2005: 33).

From the field research, a Shura member from Bahrain confirms, "The equality before the law must not contradict with Shari'a' law" (cf. Interview 4 in Table 1 at end of document). In the Jordanian constitution, equality is not expressed explicitly regarding gender. The committee on the CEDAW (11) convention always criticises Jordan for this definition, as a previous United Nations consultant for CEDAW commented, "Jordan's definition of citizenship does not explicitly specify equality regardless of gender, thus the term 'all Jordanians' does not mean both men and women" (cf. Interview 5 in Table 2 at end of document). Based on this, the legal situation in these countries is considered a dual legal system, as it is also suggested, by Lazerg, that in most Middle Eastern countries, the characteristics in the legal system are ambivalent, creating a dual legal system; one reflecting codes that are internationally equal and the other representing diverse degrees of codification of Shari'a that identify women's rights in matters of marriage, divorce, children custody and inheritance. Rights written and protected by the constitution in these countries are generally denied or subverted in various family codes (Lazerg, 2009).

There are provisions and missing explications that might be considered loopholes in the constitutions, regardless of the definition of equality as citizens before the law. In theory and practice, both countries are affected by the patriarchal system and by the prevailing explanation of clergymen, which may contradict women's personal status issues, such as freedom of movement. The citizenship is more consistent in the public sphere's right than in the individual private sphere. This is the case, even if the latter stands in direct contradiction to the civic and political rights expressed in the claimed liberal constitutions. The clergymen have always resisted liberal feminist demands, for rather than empowering women, they always classify women as second class citizens under the authority of men. By analysing data from both countries, the definition of citizenship in Jordan and Bahrain conforms, in some extent, to the model of a modern liberal state, but both are not considered as modern states. …

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