Jordan criticised for gender discrimination with nationality rules

Jordan criticised for gender discrimination with nationality rules
Human Rights Watch has criticised Jordan's gender biased nationality laws that discriminate against women.
2 min read
25 April, 2018
Jordan has been cricised for gender biased laws [AFP]

Jordan has come under harsh criticism for a continued bias in the country's nationality laws, which Human Rights Watch says discriminates against women.

Laws allow Jordanian men, who marry foreign women, the right to pass on their nationality to their children and their wives.

Women nationals who marry non-Jordanians are denied the same rights, so that their children will be brought up as "foreigners" in the kingdom.

Human Rights Watch report "I Just Want Him to Live Like Other Jordanians: Treatment of Non-Citizen Children of Jordanian Mothers" details to prejudice and struggles these families.

Without citizenship, children face lifetimes of restrictions in schools, at work, accessing healthcare and government services, and leaving and entering the country.

In 2014, Jordan claimed  it had eased these restrictions but the rights group said on Tuesday these promises have not been fulfilled. 

The various forms of discrimination the children and mothers face mean numerous financial and social obstacles in the future.

"By preventing women from equally passing nationality to their children, authorities are forcing hundreds of thousands of such children into a life of near destitution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.

"Announced reforms have failed to meaningfully improve their lives, proving that half-measures are no alternative to citizenship."

Jordan lags behind other countries in the region who have amended nationality laws.

Human Rights Watch said that Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen allow both men and women to pass their citizenships on to their children, while Iraq and Mauritania allow it for children born inside the country.

Many women's rights activists have complained that a deep-seated patriarchal culture allows the discriminatory policy to continue. Jordanian men are entitled to marry four foreign wives and the women and their children are granted citizenship if they choose.

Supporters of the government's policy say they fear Jordan could become a "second Palestinian homeland" with women passing on their Jordanian nationalities to their children creating a demographic imbalance.

This is something that has been rubbished by opponents of the law who say Jordanian men can marry four foreign wives, while women can only have one husband.

"Nermeen" - a 43-year-old daughter of a Jordanian woman and a Palestinian man - told HRW she feels stuck in limbo.

"I was born [in Jordan], my whole family and my loyalty is here, my roots are here," she said. 

"With all my respect and love for Palestine, what am I supposed to do there? I don't have anything there. Jordan is not my alternative homeland, it is my country."