Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons


Rape and Domestic Violence: The law stipulates a sentence of at least 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor for the rape of a girl or woman 15 years of age or older. Spousal rape is not illegal. The Family Protection Law prescribes penalties of up to six months in prison for domestic abuse, but NGOs reported that judges rarely prosecuted cases under the Family Protection Law because judges considered its procedures unclear. Instead, they prosecuted domestic abuses cases under the penal code, as injury or sexual assault cases.

The government did not effectively enforce the law against rape, and violence and abuse against women was widespread. Women’s rights activists speculated that many incidents went unreported because violence against women remained a taboo subject due to societal and familial pressures. The PSD’s Family Protection Department reported 1,563 cases of domestic abuse as of September 30. Human rights activists stated that girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk of gender-based violence.

Women may file complaints of rape or physical abuse with certain NGOs or directly with judicial authorities. As of September 30, the Family Protection Department treated and investigated 281 cases of rape or sexual assault against women. The Family Protection Department (FPD) actively investigated cases, but there were some reports of pressure on families to settle disputes via mediation instead of in the courts. NGOs reported that families often settled domestic abuse cases outside of the courts by requiring the abuser to sign before the governor or the FPD a statement promising not to reoffend. Spousal abuse is technically grounds for divorce, but husbands claimed religious authority to strike their wives. Observers noted that, while judges generally supported a woman’s claim of abuse in court, due to societal and familial pressure, as well as fears of violence such as honor killings, few women sought legal remedies.

On May 4, the government launched a National Framework on Family Protection to enhance coordination, improve the referral mechanism, and identify roles and responsibilities for service providers combatting family violence. Observers believed the framework was an improvement from the previous framework, but also pointed out the continued need to amend the Family Protection Law. The prime minister issued a circular on May 4 instructing the government to start implementing the framework.

The Family Protection Department continued to operate a domestic violence hotline and received inquiries and complaints via the internet and e-mail. The prosecutor general seconded a criminal prosecutor to the Family Protection Department headquarters so victims did not need go to the courts to file a criminal complaint. The department provided public information and training for government employees, including police, on domestic violence and rape. As of August 31, the government-run shelter Dar al-Wifaq al-Usari in Amman assisted 228 female victims of domestic violence and 58 children, according to the Ministry of Social Development. The government opened a second shelter for female victims of domestic violence in Irbid in October 2015. As of August 31, it had assisted 106 female victims of domestic violence and 34 children, according to the Ministry of Social Development. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families and worked with NGOs to provide services, such as legal and medical assistance, as well as some vocational training. Observers noted the lack of a comprehensive approach for victims, such as psychosocial assistance.

The government-run center for trafficking victims in Amman, Dar al-Karamah, assisted 47 female victims of trafficking through September 30.

The government-run center for at-risk girls, Dar al-Khansa Juvenile Center, worked with NGOs to provide vocational training, education, and psychosocial assistance to minor female victims. As of November 1, the center had cared for 55 survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse during the year, many of whom were at risk of additional violence from family members. It provided reconciliation services to victims and their families. Victims could only depart the shelter if a judge deemed reconciliation successful or if they transferred to another shelter at age 18.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The Ministry of Justice indicated that authorities referred four so-called “honor crimes” to the judicial system through September 29, with all four cases remaining under investigation, while NGOs reported 18 potential honor crimes through September. Activists reported that many such crimes went unreported. The Supreme Criminal Court’s panel of judges dedicated to cases involving honor crimes in recent years routinely imposed prison sentences of up to 15 years to perpetrators of such crimes. The Cassation Court, which reviews the Supreme Criminal Court rulings, generally decreased the sentences by half. The Supreme Criminal Court issued one ruling on an honor crimes case during the year, sentencing a father to one year in prison for killing his daughter.

Generally, when the victim’s family chose not to pursue the case, the government completely dismissed proceedings. In “honor crime” cases, the family of the victim and the family of the alleged perpetrator were often the same, since the perpetrator and victim usually were related. There were no reported instances of forced marriage as an alternative to a potential honor killing during the year, although NGOs noted that many cases of forced marriage occur shortly after an accusation of rape due to family and societal pressure before any formal trial begins. The penal code waives punishment for a rapist if he legally marries the victim and stays married for five years. Observers noted that if a woman marries her rapist, according to customary belief, her family members do not need to kill her to “preserve the family’s honor.”

On April 7, the prosecutor general detained a man in Irbid for further investigation related to the murder of his 16-year old sister in an apparent honor crime.

On April 27, the Supreme Criminal Court sentenced a father to one year in prison for killing his daughter in May 2015. The convicted man said he suspected his daughter had a romantic relationship outside of marriage, according to government officials and media reports. The case was pending with the Cassation Court. 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 and Umm al-Lulu detention facility, where some women remained for more than one year. The Family Protection Department has a liaison officer at Jweideh detention facility. Authorities held minor female victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse under unclear legal status at the Dar al-Khansa Juvenile Center. Authorities can release a woman detained in protective custody only after her family signs a statement assuring her safety, and both the local governor and the woman agree to the release. 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 and provided post-release rehabilitation and job placement assistance.

Sexual Harassment: The law strictly prohibits sexual harassment and does not distinguish between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Both carry a minimum prison sentence of four years at hard labor. The government did not enforce this law. Women’s groups stated that harassment was common, but many victims hesitated 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 social and cultural pressure to remain silent. NGOs reported that refugees from Syria and foreign migrant workers, including garment workers and domestic workers, were especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, in the workplace.

Reproductive Rights: Couples have the basic right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; 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. According to estimates in the UN Population Fund’s State of World Population 2015, 43 percent of women used a modern method of contraceptive, and 12 percent of women had an unmet need for family planning. Comprehensive essential obstetric, prenatal, and postnatal care was provided throughout the country in the public and private sectors.

Discrimination: The law does not provide for the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women experienced discrimination in a number of areas, including inheritance, divorce, child custody, citizenship, pension and social security benefits, the workplace, and, in certain circumstances, the value of their testimony in a sharia court. In 2013, women owned only 20 percent of land and 25 percent of property, according to the Department of Statistics.

No specialized government office or designated official handles discrimination claims. The Jordanian National Commission for Women, a government-supported NGO, operated a hotline to receive discrimination complaints.

Under sharia law as applied in the country, female heirs receive half the amount that male heirs receive. 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 without the consent of their husbands in limited circumstances such as abandonment, spousal abuse, or in return for waiving 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 under the age of 18 from leaving the country through a court order that is not available to mothers. 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 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 unless they were the sole income earner in the family. Laws and regulations governing health insurance for civil servants under the Civil Service Bureau do not permit married women to extend their health insurance coverage to dependents or spouses unless they are the sole income earner in the family. Divorced and widowed women may extend coverage to their children (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons, and section 7.d.).


Birth Registration: Only the father transmits citizenship. The government did not issue birth certificates to all children born in the country during the year. The government deemed some children–including children of unmarried women, orphans, or of certain interfaith marriages involving a Muslim woman and converts from Islam to another religion–illegitimate and denied them proper registration, making it difficult or impossible for them to attend school, access health services, or receive other documentation. Illegitimate and abandoned children already holding national identity numbers have identity cards that clearly marked them as different; such numbers impeded these children as adults from obtaining employment, housing, and government benefits.

Education: Education is compulsory from ages six through 16 and free until age 18. No legislation exists to enforce the law or to punish guardians for violating it. Children without legal residency do not have the right to attend public school. The Ministry of Education allows Syrians to enroll at local public schools, with the exception of students who have been out of school for three or more years who authorities did not permit to register. In some cases, authorities did not permit refugee children to register in school due to lack of documentation. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) helped cover the cost and provided a supplement to Jordanian teachers who worked in Za’atri and Azraq camps and in the host communities. The government doubled the number of double-shift schools to allow an additional 50,000 Syrian refugee students access to formal education in addition to the 145,000 enrolled in 2015. Additionally, the UNRWA operated 172 primary schools for approximately 120,000 Palestinian refugee children and opened enrollment to Palestinian refugee children from Syria as well as a limited number of Syrian refugees residing in the Palestinian camps. Some children of female citizens and noncitizen fathers must apply for residency permits every year, and authorities did not assure permission (see section 2.d., Stateless Persons). Children with disabilities experienced extreme difficulty in accessing constitutionally protected early and primary education.

Child Abuse: The law specifies punishment for abuse of children. For example, conviction for rape of a child younger than age 15 potentially carries the death penalty. Local organizations working with abused children pointed to gaps in the legal system that regularly resulted in lenient sentencing, particularly for family members. For example, the penal code allows judges to reduce a sentence when the victim’s family does not press charges. In child abuse cases, judges routinely showed leniency in accordance with the wishes of the family. As of September 30, authorities investigated 439 cases of child rape and sexual abuse.

The Juvenile Law places the age of criminal responsibility at 12 years. The law stipulates that juveniles charged with committing a crime along with an adult be tried in a juvenile court, except for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the State Security Court, such as terrorism charges, drug charges, or other charges relating to national security. During the year the government trained and assigned judges, prosecutors, and social workers to the juvenile court, although local legal aid organizations noted the court was still understaffed. The State Security Court issued a judgment that it does not have jurisdiction over juveniles. Terrorism-related trials of juveniles took place during the year in front of the juvenile criminal court. The 2016 Narcotics Law again gives the State Security Court jurisdiction over all drug-related criminal offenders, including juveniles. The new law stipulates alternative penalties for juvenile offenders, including vocational training and community service. Police stations have no designated holding areas for juveniles.

The government continued to fund a child protection center that provided temporary shelter and medical care for abused children between the ages of six and 12. Through September the shelter housed 41 abused children.

Early and Forced Marriage: The minimum age for marriage is 18. With the consent of both a judge and a guardian, a child as young as 15 years old, in most cases a girl, may be married. Several government sources estimated the rate of early marriage at 13 percent. In August, the Ministry of Justice reported that the rate of early marriage among Syrian girls was 35 percent, up from 32 percent reported in 2014. According to this year’s census, 3.7 percent of girls in the country between the ages of 13 and 18 were married. There was no data available on the number of unregistered marriages, but it was likely that many Syrian refugee early marriages were not registered.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law stipulates a penalty for the commercial exploitation of children of six months’ to three years’ imprisonment. The law also penalizes individuals who subject persons to trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation with a maximum of 10 years of hard labor and a fine of 2,000 to 50,000 JD ($2,800 to $70,000). The law prohibits the distribution of pornography involving persons under the age of 18 and provides for a fine of 300 JD to 5,000 JD ($420 to $7,000) or at least three months’ imprisonment. The law does not specifically prohibit the possession of child pornography without an attention to sell or distribute. The law penalizes those who use the internet to post or distribute child pornography with a fine of 500 to 5,000 JD ($700 to $7,000) or at least six months’ imprisonment. The minimum age of consensual sex is 18, although sexual relations between minors whose marriages the courts approved are legal.

Institutionalized Children: NGOs reported physical and sexual abuses occurred in government institutions. According to the NCHR, some juveniles in detention alleged mistreatment. Authorities automatically referred cases involving violence against persons with disabilities or institutionalized persons to the Family Protection Department. The community monitoring committee highlighted the pervasive use of physical discipline, physical and verbal abuse, unacceptable living conditions, and a lack of educational, rehabilitative, or psychosocial services for wards and inmates. NGOs noted that the Ministry of Social Development was responsive and followed up on reports from the community monitoring committee. Activists for orphans’ rights alleged that adult orphans and former wards of the state were especially vulnerable to forced and early marriage, labor trafficking, and sexual exploitation.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parent Child Abduction at


Aside from foreigners, there was no resident Jewish community in the country. Anti-Semitism was present in media. Editorial cartoons, articles, and opinion pieces sometimes negatively depicted Jews without government response. The national school curriculum, including materials on tolerance education, did not include mention of the Holocaust.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at

Persons with Disabilities

The law generally provides equal rights to persons with disabilities, but authorities did not uphold such legal protections. Disabilities covered under the law include physical, sensory, psychological, and mental disabilities. Activists noted the law on the rights of persons with disabilities lacked implementing regulations. The Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, a government body, worked with ministries, the private sector, and NGOs to formulate and implement strategies to assist persons with disabilities. Citizens and NGOs universally reported that persons with disabilities faced problems in obtaining employment and accessing education, health care, transportation, and other services, particularly in rural areas.

The government’s emergency call center has video-teleconference capability with sign-language interpretation available for persons with hearing disabilities. The PSD received 650 calls from persons with hearing disabilities through the beginning of September.

Human rights activists reported that institutions and rehabilitation centers subjected some persons with disabilities to negligence and cruel and inhuman treatment. On May 15, the Ministry of Social Development reported that it had withdrawn the operating license for one center for persons with disabilities for abuse, and since the beginning of the year had warned 15 other centers for violating rules and regulations.

The electoral law directs the government to verify that voting facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities and allows such persons to bring a personal assistant to the polling station; the Independent Electoral Commission has responsibility for implementing this law. Many polling stations visited by international observers during the September 20 parliamentary elections were not accessible to persons with disabilities as they were located up steps or on the higher floors of buildings. Polling center staff made efforts to assist voters. The Independent Electoral Commission allocated one polling center in each governorate to be accessible for the deaf and hearing-impaired. For the first time, the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities was part of election monitoring teams. The council trained 118 observers specifically to monitor for accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Banks frequently refused to allow persons with vision disabilities to open a bank account independently and required blind applicants to bring two male witnesses to certify each transaction. Banks commonly refused to issue customers with vision disabilities automated teller machine cards.

According to the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities and 2015 data, only 3 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in schools. The 2013 NCHR report noted that school classrooms were not fully accessible, and there were no qualified teachers for children with disabilities; these problems remained throughout the year. The council reported that educational accommodations were more readily available at the university level than in elementary and secondary schools. At all levels of education, authorities excluded children with certain types of disabilities from studying certain subjects and often could not access critical educational support services, such as sign-language interpretation. Authorities did not train general education teachers to work with students with various disabilities. Families of children with disabilities reported that teachers and principals often refused to include children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. The Ministry of Education provided accessible transportation to specialized centers for children with disabilities, but not to mainstream schools. There remained insufficient capacity in specialized centers for all students who required accommodations. Students with significant intellectual disabilities fell under the authority of the Ministry of Social Development rather than the Ministry of Education.

The law tasks the Special Buildings Code Department with enforcing accessibility provisions and oversees retrofitting of existing buildings to comply with building codes. The vast majority of private and public office buildings continued to have limited or no access for persons with disabilities. Municipal infrastructure such as public transport, streets, sidewalks, and intersections was not accessible. A 2014 report by the Higher Council for Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Statistics, and the Washington Group found that 76 percent of persons with disabilities over the age of 15 years were economically inactive.

The law mandates that public- and private-sector establishments with between 25 and 50 workers employ at least one person with disabilities and that establishments with more than 50 workers must reserve 4 percent of their positions for persons with disabilities. The law lacked implementing regulations, and authorities rarely enforced it. Additionally, authorities exempted employers who state the nature of the work is not suitable for persons with disabilities from the quota. Employers, including the government’s Civil Service Bureau, frequently required potential employees with disabilities to present a medical letter certifying the bearer was competent to perform the job in question. Human rights activists considered the letter a significant barrier to participation in public life because some medical professionals were not aware of the full range of accommodations available and thus certified individuals as not able to perform certain tasks. Girls and women with disabilities were particularly at risk for gender-based violence.

Human rights activists and the media reported that children and adults with disabilities were vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse while in institutions, rehabilitation centers, or other care settings, including their family homes. The government operated some of these institutions, and some of the abusers were government employees. Media reported some instances of abuse of persons with disabilities by family members during the year; the government launched investigations into many of these cases and referred the victims for assistance.

The government provides tariff exemptions for the vehicles of persons with disabilities and reduces the costs of hiring domestic help for persons with disabilities. Approximately 10,000 persons with disabilities (some 17 percent of the total estimated population with disabilities) benefited from these measures in 2015.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Four groups of Palestinians resided in the country, many of whom faced some discrimination. Those who migrated to the country and the Jordan-controlled West Bank after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war received full citizenship, as did those who migrated to the country after the 1967 war and held no residency entitlement in the West Bank. Those still holding residency in the West Bank after 1967 were no longer eligible to claim full citizenship but could obtain temporary travel documents without national identification numbers, provided they did not also carry a Palestinian Authority travel document. These individuals had access to some government services but paid noncitizen rates at hospitals, educational institutions, and training centers. Refugees who fled Gaza after 1967 were not entitled to citizenship, and authorities issued them temporary travel documents without national numbers. These persons had no access to government services and were almost completely dependent on UNRWA services. Finally, Palestinian refugees from Syria who were able to enter the country, despite many being turned away at the border, had access to UNRWA services.

Palestinians were underrepresented in parliament and senior positions in the government and the military, as well as in admissions to public universities. They had limited access to university scholarships.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Authorities can arrest LGBTI individuals for violating public order or acting indecently in public, crimes under the penal code, although arrests were rare during the year. While consensual same-sex sexual conduct is not illegal, societal discrimination against LGBTI persons was prevalent, and LGBTI persons were targets of abuse. Activists reported discrimination in housing, employment, education, and access to public services. Some LGBTI individuals reported reluctance to engage the legal system due to fear their sexual orientation or gender identity would either provoke hostile reactions from police or disadvantage them in court. Activists reported that most LGBTI individuals were closeted and feared disclosure of their sexual identity.

During the year there were reports of individuals who left the country due to fear that their families would punish them because of their sexual orientation. There were also credible reports that an LGBTI individual was the victim of an “honor crime.”

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

HIV/AIDS was a largely taboo subject. Lack of public awareness remained a problem, because many citizens believed the disease exclusively affected foreigners and members of the LGBTI community. Society stigmatized HIV/AIDS-positive individuals, and they largely hid their medical status. The government continued its efforts to inform the public about the disease and eliminate negative attitudes about persons with HIV/AIDS, but it also continued to test all foreigners annually for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, syphilis, malaria, and tuberculosis. The government deported individuals who tested HIV-positive.

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