AMMAN — Once again, Islamist, conservative and tribal MPs dashed the hopes of both women and equal rights groups on Sunday by rejecting the Personal Status Law for the second time.
The Lower House voted down the amended temporary Personal Status Law — widely known as the "khuloe law" that gives women the right to divorce their husbands in return for monetary compensation — by a narrow margin, with 44 deputies out of 83 present during the session voting for rejecting the law.
The law was first rejected in August 2003, citing the same reasons given this time around — because it encourages moral disintegration, tears down family values and is against Islamic law (Sharia). But the Senate returned the legislation to the Lower House for consideration after insisting on keeping it as it is.
The main articles of controversy between legislators were concentrated on the right of women to divorce, raising the age of marriage from 16 for males and 15 for females to 18 for both sexes and the right of the judiciary to inform women of their husbands’ decision to take another wife.
"This law gives women the right to divorce their husbands to pursue affairs with other men they like better than their husbands," charged Islamic Action Front (IAF) MP Mohammad Abu Fares, who voted against approving the Senate’s decision. "Women who initiate divorce proceedings under this law are often women of comfort and leisure who don’t care about their families," IAF Deputy Ali Otoum said.
MP Mohammad Bani Hani agreed, adding that no judge has the right to inform a wife of her husband’s decision to remarry should the husband decide to keep it in secret, charging that "secrecy is needed for a while until the right time comes for the husband to tell his wife that he got married to another." Several other deputies were against raising the age of marriage to 18, claiming it may encourage immorality
"Delaying marriage harms the Islamic society and since males and females reach puberty at an earlier age than Western countries early marriage should not be discouraged," Balqaa MP Mahmoud Kharabsheh said.
Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Ahmad Hilayel defended the Cabinet’s decision to endorse the temporary law and countered IAF and independent deputies’ claims that the law contradicted Sharia. He explained that no marriage age was set in the Koran but marriage was defined by mental and sexual preparedness of the male and female as well as the groom’s financial readiness.
In addition, Hilayel cited several Sharia experts’ endorsement of khuloe, as well as publicizing marriage contracts.
Source [The Jordan Times]
How do I feel about it? Well, I put my frustration down on paper, so to speak, back in August when the cabinet rejected the law the first time. For those interested, you can read my scribbles here. I think now I’m less angry than I was back in August. Maybe because I have become numb with all the political and religious mayhem currently taking place in the Middle East! Ah, I’m losing hope.
[article remainder:]However, another factor played against the government’s drive to endorse the law with several deputies taking a stand against the continuous rejection of Lower House legislative decisions by the Senate. MPs Abdul Karim Dughmi and Mamdouh Abbadi were two such deputies who declared their support for the law but voted against approving the Senate’s endorsement.
"Every time we turn down a law returned to us by the Senate we get accused by [the media] of being backward and regressive, so despite my earlier vote of approval, I am going to vote against the Upper House recommendations," Dughmi stated.
According to the Constitution, the Lower House decision will be presented to the Senate who will either accept or reject it. Should the Upper House stick to their resolution a joint session between the two Houses will be held.
The law will then be deliberated by members of both Houses and will only be endorsed if a two-thirds majority of those present approve it. Women’s groups had earlier showed optimism about gaining House endorsement for the law, particularly, after it was passed by the Legal Committee two weeks ago.
"I do not believe [the law] will be heavily attacked because many of the deputies who opposed it the first time changed their minds after meeting with women’s groups and listening to their point of view," Jordanian Women’s Union President Amneh Zu’bi had then told The Jordan Times.
The introduction of the law by former Prime Minister Ali Abul Ragheb came in response to repeated calls by women’s rights activists who complained of slow court procedures that delayed divorce cases sometimes for as long as five years. Around 200 women have filed khuloe cases at Sharia courts since the beginning of this year.