A New Report Reveals Women In Jordan Are Being Jailed For Fleeing Rape And Abuse

Jordanian authorities are reportedly misusing legislation to detain scores of women when they flee abusive homes

Amman, Jordan

by Georgia Aspinall |

Amnesty International has today called on Jordanian authorities to stop jailing women who defy the male ‘guardianship’ system, which allows a woman’s life to be controlled by her guardian.

The human rights organisation has released a 64-page report after interviewing 22 women jailed in Juweideh prison (the main women’s prison in Jordan) without charge or trial for being ‘absent’ from the home or having sex outside of marriage.

Most of the women were fleeing domestic abuse or had run away after a guardian blocked their choice of marriage partner. Jordanian law dictates that women under 30 require consent from their male guardian – usually a father, brother or uncle – to marry.

‘I was stopped on the street in Amman and the police asked me for my ID,’ one woman who fled from her abusive father told Amnesty. ‘I didn’t have it, so they said I had to come to their station, but when I got there they found a warrant for my arrest because I was “absent”. The two police officers there beat me … I was taken to the governor’s deputy in [location withheld]. He said I would go to Juweideh prison until my father bails me out.’

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jordan denies women being jailed for ‘absence’ alone – stating that only when they are suspected of another offence could they be imprisoned. However, Amnesty’s research shows women are jailed for ‘absence’ typically on the sole request of their guardian..

According to Prime Minister’s Office figures, there are currently 149 women detained in Jordan – 85 of whom were jailed for sex outside of marriage this year alone. This can also occur when hospitals report pregnant women who are unmarried to authorities.

‘I got pregnant and tried to marry the man,’ Ola*, 20, told Amnesty. ‘But the marriage wasn’t approved because I have no guardian. My parents are dead, and I just have younger sisters, no brothers … I went to hospital and gave birth. The hospital asked if I was married and I said no, so then they called the police. That’s how I ended up here [in jail].’

In Jordan, unmarried women have no right to their child and are often forced to marry their rapist if they wish to register the child as their own. Otherwise, unmarried women see their new-born taken into care upon birth.

‘I didn’t want to marry [my husband] but I was advised to do so,’ one woman told the charity. ‘I am worried one day he will beat me to death. But I have no choice, I must stay with him. The lawyer said I had to marry him so I can register the [children].’

According to Amnesty’s report, provincial governors in Jordan misuse a ‘draconian piece of legislation’ called the Crime Prevention Law to imprison numbers of women at any one time. The Ministry of Interior officials in Jordan claim that by detaining women they are protecting women from family members who may wish to kill them.

Women who are detained are also often forced to take ‘virginity tests’ at the wish of their guardian – it is scientifically impossible to prove virginity and considered torture under international law.

Jordan was previously seen to be making strides towards protecting women’s rights, opening a shelter for women fleeing abuse in July last year. The ‘Dar Amneh’ – which means Safety House – hosts 75 women as of September this year, all of whom are at risk of being killed by a family member. They also were one of many Arab countries which scrapped a law that allowed rapists to avoid punishment should they marry their victim in 2017. However, clearly there is a lot more to be done.

‘What is needed now is a comprehensive review of laws and policies to ensure women are trusted to make free decisions about their sexual and reproductive lives, rather than being criminalised, punished and marginalised,' Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East Regional Director said in the report,

To find out more about this issue, click here to visit Amnesty International's website.

*names have been changed

Read More:

Women In Saudi Arabia Are Doing Something About Their Male Guardianship Laws

Here Are The Countries Where It’s Still Really Difficult For Women To Vote

Here's What A Typical Weekend Looks Like For A Muslim Girl In London Right Now

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us