Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates a sentence of at least 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor for rape of a girl or woman age 15 years or older. Spousal rape is not illegal. The law does not explicitly ban domestic violence. The government did not enforce these laws effectively, and violence and abuse against women was widespread. Violence against women was reported more frequently in rural areas than in major cities, but women’s rights activists speculated that many incidents in cities went unreported as violence against women remained a taboo issue, due to societal and familial pressures. There were no statistics available regarding the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished. Human rights activists stated that girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk from gender-based violence.
Women may file complaints of rape or physical abuse with certain NGOs or directly with judicial authorities. During the year the PSD Family Protection Department (FPD) treated and investigated 1,026 cases of rape or sexual assault against women. The FPD actively investigated cases; however, there were some reports of pressure on families to settle disputes via mediation instead of the courts. Spousal abuse is technically grounds for divorce, but husbands can claim religious authority to strike their wives. Observers noted that judges generally supported a woman’s claim of abuse in court; however, due to societal and familial pressure, few women sought legal remedies.
The FPD continued to operate a domestic violence hotline during the year and received inquiries and complaints via the Internet and e-mail. The government-run shelter, Dar al-Wafaq, assisted approximately 505 female victims of domestic violence during the year. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families and worked with NGOs to provide services, such as legal and medical assistance. However, observers noted the lack of a comprehensive approach for victims, as well as a need to increase the number of psychosocial counselors.
Harmful Traditional Practices: It was estimated that more than 10 honor crimes were reported during the year. However, activists reported that many such crimes went unreported. The Supreme Criminal Court’s panel of judges dedicated to cases involving honor crimes routinely issued sentences of up to 15 years to honor crime perpetrators. However, the Cassation Court, which reviews the Supreme Criminal Court rulings, generally decreased the sentences by half. There were several cases during the year in which family members dropped the charges against perpetrators of honor crimes, which also resulted in sentences being cut in half for the perpetrator, who was often a relative of the victim. Instances of forced marriage as an alternative to a potential honor killing were reported in rural areas during the year. Observers noted that if a woman marries her rapist, according to customary belief, her family members would not need to kill her to “preserve the family’s honor.”
Numerous “honor” crime cases were reported during the year. For example, on February 7, a 26-year-old man stabbed his 30-year-old widowed sister to death in Amman after discovering that she was eight months’ pregnant. The brother, who turned himself in to the police, said that he stabbed his sister to cleanse the family’s honor. On April 10, the prosecutor general pressed charges of premeditated murder. At year’s end the case was pending.
Through their administrative detention authority, governors continued to place potential victims of honor crimes in involuntary protective custody in the Women’s Correctional and Rehabilitation Center in Jweideh detention facility, where some women had remained for more than one year. The government estimated that approximately 82 women were placed in protective custody during the year. A number of women detained for more than one year were released during the year. A woman detained in protective custody can be released only after her family signs a statement guaranteeing her safety and both the local governor and the woman agree to the release. During the year there was at least one case of a woman being killed after release from protective custody. On June 28, a 17-year-old shot his unmarried sister in Tafileh after she had a miscarriage and was released by the governor from protective custody to her family, who pledged not to harm her. The case never went to court, and the boy was not prosecuted. One NGO continued to work for the release of these women through mediation with their families. The NGO also provided a temporary but unofficial shelter for such women as an alternative to protective custody.
Sexual Harassment: According to the law, sexual harassment is strictly prohibited. The law does not make a distinction between sexual assault and sexual harassment; both carry a minimum prison sentence of four years with hard labor. Women’s groups stated that harassment was common, but many victims were hesitant to file a complaint and rarely did so because they feared blame for inciting the harassment or consequences such as losing their job or because they faced other pressure to keep silent. One NGO report stated that foreign migrant workers in the garment sector may be especially vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace (see section 7).
Reproductive Rights: Couples have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and individuals were able to make such decisions free from discrimination and coercion. Contraceptives were generally accessible to all men and women, both married and single, and provided free of charge in public clinics. Comprehensive essential obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care is provided throughout the country in the public and private sectors. The Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities and civil society activists reported that forced sterilization of women and girls with intellectual disabilities was a common practice. The Higher Council reported that annually approximately 64 hysterectomies were performed on women with intellectual disabilities. A hospital official confirmed that three to four such operations were conducted annually, often at the behest of the victims’ families.
Discrimination: Women experienced discrimination in inheritance, divorce, ability to travel (see also section 2.d.), child custody, citizenship (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons), pension and social security benefits, in certain circumstances in the value of their sharia court testimony (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures) ,and in the workplace.
Under sharia (Islamic law) as applied in the country, female heirs receive half the amount that male heirs receive. Even a sole female heir receives only half of her parents’ estate, with the balance going to designated male relatives, whereas a sole male heir inherits all of his parents’ property. Women may seek divorce only in return for waiving alimony or other financial rights. The law allows retention of financial rights under specific circumstances, such as spousal abuse. Special courts for each Christian denomination adjudicate marriage and divorce.
The law allows fathers to prevent their children from leaving the country through a court order; however, this same court order is not available to mothers. Some mothers claimed that they were prevented from departing the country with their children because authorities enforced requests from fathers to prevent their children from leaving. However, authorities did not stop fathers from exiting the country with their children when the mother objected.
The government provided men with more generous social security benefits than it gave women. The government continued pension payments of deceased male civil servants to their heirs, but it discontinued payments to heirs of deceased female civil servants. Laws and regulations governing health insurance for civil servants do not permit married women to extend their health insurance coverage to dependents or spouses. However, divorced and widowed women may extend coverage to their children.
Women’s rights activists complained that the law granting women equal pay for equal work was not enforced. Many women said traditional social pressures discouraged them from pursuing professional careers, especially after marriage.