Children of Jordanian Mothers Have Fewer Rights at Higher Costs
Many questions came to the mind of nineteen-year-old Ayham when the cashier at the Traffic Department in Amman asked him to pay 154 Dinars ($218) to issue him a Jordanian driver’s license. He only had 38 Jordanian Dinars ($54), since this was the fee his friend had paid recently when he applied for his driving licence. “How is my friend different from me?” asks Ayham, “he and I were born in the same year in Amman, and we speak the same dialect. We sang the national anthem and saluted the flag together at the same school.” Ayham sighed and asked the cashier for the required amount again. His response was, “Sorry, but you are not Jordanian.” Ayham told him, “I am the son of a Jordanian woman,” to which the person cashier at the window replied, “They are not (considered) Jordanian citizens.”
Jordanian women’s children who reside in the kingdom pay higher fees than citizens when requesting or certifying official documents, or when renewing their driving licenses.
Ayham’s case is similar to twenty-one-year-old Mohammad who had travelled abroad to compete his education. Once back, he approached the Ministry of Foreign and Expatriates Affairs to certify his degree, this was possible for a fee of five Jordanian Dinars ($7), whereas Jordanian citizens pay only two Dinars ($2.8). Mohammad says in a frustrated tone, “We are being treated as foreigners.”
There are no recent data about the numbers of children of Jordanian women in the kingdom, but in 2014, the Jordanian Ministry of Interior had stated that there were more than 355.000 non-Jordanian sons and daughters of Jordanian mothers.
A report issued by Human Rights Watch, which is a non-governmental and non-profit human rights organization, states that these individuals endure usually a lot of hardship in accessing basic rights and services. Moreover, the authorities restrict their right to work, to own properties, and to travel. They also limit their access to public funded education and healthcare.
This reality has forced many Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians to demand that their children are not discriminated against through protest campaigns and sit-ins, such as the campaign called “My Mother is Jordanian” and the coalition of “My Right, My Family!”
As a result of these campaigns, the Council of Ministers issued a decision to ease restrictions on children of Jordanian women by granting them some leeway and privileges in 2014.
Such discretionary treatments were limited and did not meet the aspirations of the children of Jordanian women, as Rami Al-Wakil, the coordinator of the “My Mother is Jordanian” campaign believes. He says, “The privileges and leeway are limited to certain areas and are not comprehensive. For example, they are treated like Jordanians in primary and secondary education. When it comes to university education, only 150 seats in public universities are reserved for the children of Jordanian women on a competitive basis while the rest are registered as foreigners through the Parallel System.”
Al Wakil adds that “In healthcare, children of Jordanian women up to the age of eighteen are treated like Jordanians, but after that they are treated as foreigners.”
Human rights activist Ina’am Al-Asha says, “Children of Jordanian women were given the ‘Package of Citizenship Rights for Children of Jordanian Women’. This includes the right to residency, work, education, and medical care, but not the right to political participation.” She asserts that this is not a bad package, but that it is a first step towards reducing the hardships and difficulties faced by children of Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians when it comes to their children residing and living in Jordan.
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Driver’s license – valid for 10 years
Passport – valid for 5 years
Transfer of real estate
Certifying documents at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Medical examination for the purpose of residency
Table showing the difference in fees charged in Jordanian Dinars
Is Discriminating Against Children of Jordanian Mothers a Constitutional Violation?
Discrimination against the children of Jordanian women (married to foreigners) happens despite the fact that the constitution guarantees their mothers the right to equal treatment; Article (6) states, “Jordanians are equal before the law, and there shall be no discrimination among them in rights or duties regardless of their race, language or religion.”
The Jordanian National Charter also stresses this right by stating, “Jordanian men and women are equal before the law; there shall be no discrimination among them in rights or duties regardless of their race, language or religion.”
Some constitutional amendments also entered into force with the publication of the 2022 draft amendment to the Jordanian Constitution in the Official Gazette, issue number 5770.
The fourteenth amendment to the Jordanian Constitution of 1952 covered twenty-five articles in addition to including the phrase “Jordanian women” in the title of Chapter Two of the constitution. This was approved by the senates and the members of the Lower House of Parliament in the National Assembly.
Despite this, children of Jordanian women continue to suffer from the discrimination of the law against their mothers, which deny them access to basic services and opportunities like other Jordanians.
Lawyer and women’s rights activist Ina’am Al-Asha stresses that “the constitution ranks top in the legal hierarchy. Other laws therefore rank lower on the scale, and they cannot contradict the text of the constitution. However, this constitutional amendment rendered the text at odds with the constitution, and any such texts containing discriminatory language showing bias or inequality among Jordanian men and women must be reconsidered.”
Earlier this year, the Lower House of Parliament had agreed to add the phrase “Jordanian women” to the title of Chapter Two of the constitution, so that this title would become “The Rights and Duties of Jordanian Men and Women.”
Citizenship Maybe the Answer to Ending Discrimination
Human rights consultant Riyadh Al-Suboh believes that the solution lies in granting citizenships to the children of Jordanian women, so they can enjoy all civil and political rights.
Al-Asha adds that, “Civil society organizations are hoping that the amendment to the constitution would warrant a reconsideration of the Jordanian citizenship law, as nothing guarantees the rights and determines the duties like citizenship does, as it seals the bond and regulates the relationship between a person and the country in which he lived and grew up.”
Until a solution that does justice to this category of people materializes, Ayham and other children of Jordanian women (married to foreigners) continue to live in a country they consider their homeland, but are frustrated when they encounter discriminatory situations. Ayham concludes with, “We are residents of this country. We are citizens by emotional belonging but not on official papers.”