Breaking the cycle

generational change through women’s legal empowerment

“Without your help, I would have stayed in prison for the rest of my life” Haifa, beneficiary

In over 13 years of legal aid work, with women representing approximately 70% of its beneficiaries, JCLA holds the certainty that the legal needs of women are still largely unmet in Jordan. Women are generally reluctant to seek a lawyer’s assistance due to cultural stigma and social norms. This is compounded by their economic vulnerability, lack of financial independence and means to afford a lawyer, in a country where female unemployment is nearly 33%. The Jordanian legal system, whose primary objective is to preserve the unity of the family rather than the wellbeing of its individuals, strongly pressures women into reconciling with aggressors and prevents them from taking action. Scarce knowledge of the law and fear of the justice system are additional factors driving women to avoid addressing their grievances and waive their rights. This feeds into a generational cycle of discrimination and marginalization, where women of all ages and nationalities across the country are the ultimate victims.

Without legal empowerment, women are more vulnerable to violence and discrimination. In the case of Haifa, she spent 15 days in administrative detention for refusing to move back to her father’s house after the death of her husband. In Jordan, social and cultural norms dictate for women to live under the roof of their male guardian at all times (father, husband, brother, etc.). When Haifa complained to the Family Protection Unit that her father was threatening to take her back by force, she was placed in jail “for her own protection”. It was not until the intervention of JCLA legal aid team, who knew about her case by chance, that she could regain her freedom. Had she stayed longer, she would have likely lost her job, her house and custody of her children, not to mention the severe psychological trauma caused by the experience. This begs the question: how many women are unable to reach the help they need and are still living in a situation of abuse, rights deprivation or discrimination?

Between 2018-2020, JCLA assisted approximately 13,500 women through legal consultations and in-court representations, including 74% Jordanian and 19% Syrian. Although their cases are not always as sensational as Haifa’s, it would be simplistic to assume that they do not hold as much importance and impact for each one of them. In JCLA’s experience, the large majority of legal issues encountered by women are connected to family problems. 38% of women beneficiaries between 2018-2020 sought assistance to file alimony claims and 24% asked for help to obtain a divorce. Through its awareness-raising activities, JCLA reached approximately 34,500 women between 2018-2020. 27% of them received legal information on protection from cybercrimes (blackmailing and threats by exposing private pictures, messages, etc.), and 14%, around 5,000, requested to attend sessions on protection from domestic violence. This highlights a widespread trend, indicating that women are often victims of abuse and discrimination within their close circles and families.