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‘Women’s access to justice still limited despite progress’


By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto, The Jordan Times


AMMAN — The Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) on Thursday issued a report analysing the status of women’s access to justice in Jordan, identifying a “significant lack of legal services for women in Sharia [Islamic Law] courts”.
The study, titled “Women's Access to Justice”, proposes a framework of inquiry based on international experiences that allows for systematic analysis of women’s access to legal services in Jordan, offering several recommendations aimed at overcoming hurdles through enhanced dispute resolution, enforcement mechanisms and quality legal support services.
“The government, alongside key institutions, has undoubtedly made remarkable achievements in responding to a wide array of challenges within the justice sector with recent developments and achievements,” the study said, highlighting that “the personal status law based in Sharia interpretation is detailed and fairly comprehensive”.
“But, while Jordan has made progress in promoting women’s access to justice, the lack of an enabling environment, limited supply of legal and institutional resources, and high demand of mechanisms still represent significant challenges,” the report continued. 
In light of the findings, the ARDD pointed out that “facilitating an enabling environment is critical to enhance women’s access to justice”, calling on decision makers to “adopt and revise national legal frameworks and harmonise them with international human rights standards — including granting women full citizenship rights”.
Concerning the supply of dispute resolution mechanisms, the report noted that “access to proper legal representation enables women to overcome many challenges”, highlighting the need to “assist them in navigating the courts, provide them with the financial support necessary to take their cases to court and ensure their ability to execute the court rulings once they are issued”.
Regarding the latter, the organisation added that there is a need for enforcement mechanisms for the execution of court rulings, adding that “in order to improve women’s access to justice concerning alimony and custody, it is important for the National Alimony Fund to be developed and properly utilised, so that women of all faiths can more easily access the money that they are owed”.
“Legal awareness and literacy are critical to promote access to justice and the rights of 
individuals,” the report continued, noting that “civil society as well as other legal aid providers must engage in a concerted effort to expand the availability and accessibility of source of legal information”.
“Women’s access to justice is the foundation for gender equality and women's empowerment, and supporting women to assert and claim their rights promotes a just society,” the study concluded, calling for the process of facilitating women’s access to justice in Jordan to be “comprehensive, as obstacles preventing it range from political and civic inequalities to institutional and financial limitations”.
The Jordanian National Commision for Women (JNCW) has recently criticised the lack of female Sharia (Islamic law) judges in Jordan, noting “the importance of engaging women in such positions, as Sharia courts often deal with family issues in which women find themselves in a weaker position”.
“The law allows the engagement of women in this profession, but we have not been able to see this come into practice in Jordan,” JNCW Secretary General Salma Nims told The Jordan Times in a recent interview, highlighting the presence of female Sharia judges in neighbouring countries as an example to be followed by the Kingdom.
Nims’ remarks were echoed by Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI) Executive Director Asma Khader in a recent workshop celebrated at the Turkish embassy, where the expert expressed that “Jordan’s goal for now should be to see the presence of female judges in family Sharia courts”, adding that “those who oppose this idea state that women are too emotional to occupy such positions, but civil courts are already crowded with female judges, and the same was said about military and governmental roles decades ago”.

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