Sexual harassment scandal at university rocks Jordan

Sexual harassment scandal at university rocks Jordan
Students shared their accounts of sexual harassment over the weekend after a professor came under fire for alleged sexual misconduct.
3 min read
06 June, 2022
Recent studies noted that more than three out of four women in Jordan experienced some form of sexual harassment. [Getty]

An accusation that a professor at a Jordanian university has sexually harassed his students has sparked outrage in Jordan, with female students coming forward with allegations of abuse over the span of years.

The students allege that a physics professor at the Jordan University of Science of Technology (JUST), a university in the northern city of Irbid, had harassed female students with impunity for years.

The university has released a statement that they are forming a committee to investigate the allegations and has urged any "affected students" to come forward and submit their complaints.

The scandal began when a female student at JUST shared an audio recording on a student social media group that allegedly captured an instance of a professor harassing them.

This recording soon spread across social media, with other students sharing their own stories of facing harassment under the hashtag "The Technology Harasser."

One student at JUST alleged that a professor would regularly invite female students to his office for private meetings, while he would meet with male students in public spaces.

She said that the professor would "joke" with his students by asking them to close the door behind them and remove their clothes. She added that there have been "dozens" of complaints against this professor but no action by the university in response. 

In light of this current scandal, students at other Jordanian universities began to anonymously share their stories of harassment over social media and encouraged one another to speak up.

"There are some people with the professor, especially with those with more traditional thinking. But there are a lot of people with us as well," Saba al-Ta'amri, a 21-year-old student at JUST, told The New Arab. She added that she was happy that public opinion caused the university to support students.

"Harassment is a problem everywhere, not just in Jordan. All women face it, as they do in any place," al-Ta'amri said.

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While physical sexual harassment is illegal in Jordan, the law's approach to other forms of harassment is ambiguous. A 2018 report by the UN said that Jordan's anti-harassment legislation was not sufficient as "the scope of the law is unclear."

The World Bank said that "laws against sexual harassment in Jordan are inadequate, contributing to an … unsafe or even hostile work environment." It added that recent studies showed that more than three out of four women in Jordan experienced some form of sexual harassment.

"Different studies have demonstrated that sexual harassment in public transportation and the work environment affects women's economic participation. Women end up leaving the workforce because of the difficulties they face … and because of sexual harassment in the work environment," Salma Nims, the Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, told The New Arab.

Nims noted that while sexual harassment is unfortunately present in universities in Jordan, it is not affecting female enrollment and participation in education.

Notably, Jordan has one of the lowest female labor participation rates at just 13 percent in 2021. The global average is 47 percent.