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Imprisoned women, stolen children: policing sex, marriage and pregnancy in Jordan

Violence against women Family violence Sexual assault Jordan

This report documents how women accused of being “absent from home”, eloping, or having sex outside marriage, risk imprisonment without charge or trial in Jordan if male family members complain to the authorities. Provincial governors’ mis(use) their powers to detain women, often for months, until male family members accept them back. Where family members demand it, police also take women in custody for a “virginity test”.

Key recommendations:

  1. End male guardianship in law and practice, in particular through reforming the Personal Status Law, and by implementing a public information campaign raising awareness among key stakeholders of this reform and its implications.
  2. Reform the Penal Code to remove provisions that criminalise consensual sexual relations and women’s reproductive decisions, including zina and abortion. Ensure that all women criminally detained in relation to zina or abortion are released, their charges dropped and their criminal records expunged.
  3. End the practice of arresting women who have sought to live outside their guardian’s home without permission, and the practice of returning these women to their guardian’s home or detaining them. The Prime Minister should issue a directive to this effect.
  4. End the practice of administrative detention under the Crime Prevention Law of 1954 and immediately release all women currently administratively detained for “absence” or zina. Women at risk of being harmed by family members should be given the option of transfer to Dar Amneh shelter for women at risk.
  5. Expand the size and support available to Dar Amneh for women at risk (and open other shelters and places of safety, as appropriate) and continue collaborations with civil society organisations. Ensure women may leave freely if they wish, with any children they have, and that all reasonable measures are taken to ensure the women’s safety after they leave while also upholding their human rights.
  6. End the use of virginity testing and other humiliating forensic exams in all circumstances, including where purportedly used to investigate premarital sex, adultery or sexual violence.
  7. End the practice of removing children from the care of women just because they are unmarried and ensure unmarried women can register their children.



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