Committee on the Rights of the Child
27 May 2014
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today completed its consideration of the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Jordan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the initial reports of Jordan on how the country is implementing the Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Presenting the report, Rajab Sukayri, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that children in Jordan represented almost half of the total population and therefore the authorities attached the greatest importance to their protection. The minimum age of marriage was 18 years, with some exceptions available for children from the age of 15 years. Children born out of wedlock had better legal status, as did children born to a Jordanian mother and a non-Jordanian father. There had been legislative and practical improvements for children with disabilities and unaccompanied children. The huge influx of Syrian refugees was a major challenge that caused social and economic repercussions on Jordanian people, families and children. The Jordanian Government provided education, health and other services to child refugees but the expense and effort was a huge burden for the country.
In the interactive dialogue Committee Experts commended Jordan for its generosity in hosting 1.35 million Syrian refugees, as well as its public spending on children in the country, its extensive data collection system and its low illiteracy rates. Questions were asked about nationality rights, so-called honour crimes, child marriage, the status of children born out of wedlock and corporal punishment. Gender discrimination faced by girls, cultural stereotypes about working women, custody of children, and adolescent sexual and reproductive health were also raised.
The plight of the Syrian refugees was a huge issue and an international responsibility, not just the problem of Jordan, several Experts said, but nevertheless Jordan had responsibilities for the children on its territory. Questions were asked about support for children separated from their parents and unaccompanied children and upholding of their rights in general.
Under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, Committee Experts asked for clarification of the minimum age that children could join the military, about military schools and the reported recruitment of children by non-State armed groups in the Syrian refugee camps.
On the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Committee Experts commended Jordan for acceding without any reservations, and raised questions about legislation, measures to combat trafficking in persons, including of Syrian refugee girls, and support for child victims.
In concluding remarks Hatem Kotrane, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan, thanked the delegation for providing a broader picture of the situation of children’s rights in Jordan. Although the pending Juvenile Act and law on domestic violence may resolve some concerns, questions remained about so-called ‘honour killings’ and health issues, especially in remote areas.
Renate Winter, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, said the initial report was always the most difficult, as there were gaps to be bridged, but she was sure the State party would be able meet the Committee’s concerns and harmonize the military recruitment age.
Bernard Gastaud, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said the Committee took note of Jordan’s willingness to act and thanked the delegation for clearing up several concerns.
Muib Nimrat, Director of the Human Rights Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, in concluding remarks, thanked the Committee and said in spite of the tensions in the Middle East and the responsibilities shouldered by Jordan, it remained dedicated to upholding human rights and continuing the process of legislative and institutional reform.
The Delegation of Jordan included representatives from the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Shariah Court, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of the Interior, National Council for Family Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 May, when the Committee will consider the combined third to fourth periodic report of Kyrgyzstan (CRC/C/KGZ/3-4).
The Committee is reviewing the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Jordan: (CRC/C/JOR/4-5); the initial report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict: (CRC/C/OPAC/JOR/1); and the initial report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: (CRC/C/OPSC/JOR/1).
The reports are available in other languages, along with annexes and addendums, the lists of issues, and written replies by the State party, and can be found on the Committee’s webpage.
Presentation of the Report
RAJAB SUKAYRI, Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that children in Jordan represented almost half - 46.2 per cent – of the total population and therefore the authorities attached the greatest importance to their protection. Article 6 of the Constitution had been amended to emphasize that all laws which protected the mother, child and elderly person must follow the best interests of the child. Jordan’s legal system as a whole complied with all articles of the Convention, and nothing in Jordanian law contravened its obligations under it. A draft bill currently being negotiated in the House of Representatives aimed to reintegrate and rehabilitate children in conflict with the law. A special police department for minors was established in 2011, while the Children’s Council was currently reviewing the best way to protect children from domestic violence.
The 2010 Provisional Family Law now stipulated that the minimum marriageable age for girls and boys was 18 years of age, although a child aged 15 to 18 years old could marry with the permission of a judge, in accordance with strict criteria. Children born out of wedlock were registered without any legal delays. In recognition of their legal status, they were registered in a civilian registry, given a national number, identification card and passport, none of which indicated that the child was born out of wedlock. The rights of children born to a Jordanian mother and a non-Jordanian father had been improved to give them access to residency, healthcare in public hospitals and education in public schools with other Jordanian children, as well as the right to work and to own property.
Jordan’s reservations to the Convention regarding adoption did not prejudice the rights of Jordanian children, who were adequately protected by the law and alternative family care under the Islamic system of kafalah. Human rights training was given to judges and personnel of Sharia courts, and the course modules included the Convention on the Rights of the Child, issues of custody, alimony, education and the law as it applied to children in conflict situations. A new system for alternative care for children without a family was being developed, and a new law had been adopted to deter perpetrators and those who preyed on vulnerable children. Jordan’s vision was of a society that allowed persons with disabilities to live as dignified and active members of society accessing all opportunities available to everyone, and to that end a High Council for Persons with Disabilities had been established.
The influx of Syrian refugees was a major challenge, the Permanent Representative said. It had caused social and economic repercussions on Jordanian people, families and children, particularly in the regions with a high concentration of refugees. Most refugees were being hosted within Jordanian society and not in refugee camps. The Jordanian Government provided education and health services to those refugees, as to Jordanian children. However, that was an added burden on the Government which was reflected in the quality of the services, he said, noting that an estimated 13 per cent of public schools had two school-day shifts per day, in the morning and evening, to meet the needs of the refugee children.
Questions from the Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan, welcomed the delegation. He began by speaking about Jordan’s ratification of various international human rights treaty bodies, noting that it had not yet ratified two important treaties: the Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Persons and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances. It had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on individual communications. Had Jordan changed its position on its reservations to articles 14, 20 and 21 of the Convention? It was strange as those issues were already said to be covered by domestic legislation, and especially as a number of States in the region – such as Egypt and Morocco - had withdrawn similar reservations recently.
Regarding the apparent ease with which girls were married, it seemed that despite the legal minimum age of 18 years, the laws were not strong enough. The Committee wanted to address the exceptions where girls could get married at a younger age, for example in cases when marriage would ‘ward off a certain evil’ or ‘secure a certain benefit’. The Committee could not see what benefit marrying below 18 years could bring. The same question applied to Syrian girls. The Committee was informed that girls came from Syria already married, but Jordan’s response was simply to register them as married and validate the marriage, even if the marriage in Syria was illegal in the first place because the girl was under-age, and had perhaps been customary or secret.
Crimes committed in the name of so-called “honour”, and justifications for mitigating circumstances in the Penal Code, were raised. Why was an exception made to perpetrators for girls aged below 15 years? What steps was Jordan taking to review, with external organs, the Penal Code and to eradicate mitigating circumstances for ‘honour crimes’ especially those relating to children. What about girls who were placed in ‘protective custody’ to prevent them from becoming victims?
An Expert asked whether Jordan had an action plan for the implementation of the Convention. What key priorities did the delegation think applied to Jordan? He asked several questions about the National Human Rights Centre, including whether children could make complaints directly to it, or if their parents had to do it on their behalf. Was Jordan considering the establishment of a Children’s Ombudsperson?
Jordan was commended for its work in setting up a budget on public expenditure for children, and its progress in that regard. The Committee would welcome hearing about its successes in that regard. However, the Committee noted that Jordan had recently implemented a number of budget adjustment – or austerity - measures in relation to the global financial crisis. How had the State party ensured its austerity measures did not negatively impact upon the rights of the child? How did it ensure children in particularly vulnerable settings were the least affected?
Jordan was the country in the region with the most extensive and best-kept data collection system. However, the Committee was unsure whether there was a central data base for children. The Expert also asked about the dissemination of the Convention, particularly within educational and training settings.
The Committee asked about the categorization of certain children as ‘victims of lascivious conduct’, ‘foundlings whose parentage was unknown’ or ‘illegitimate children’, and discrimination faced by them compared to children born within lawful wedlock. In some cases children were not allowed to live with their biological mothers. The Committee noted that there had been serious improvement in that regard, but asked whether Jordan had considered the impact of criminalizing sexual relations out of wedlock on children born as a result of those relations? What was the general thinking about the term ‘illegitimate’ in general, which was in itself discriminating?
Although the Jordanian law generally excluded statelessness of children, which was commendable, the Committee was concerned about children born to Jordanian mothers and non-Jordanian fathers who were not allowed to receive Jordanian nationality. That led to many difficult circumstances, an Expert said, giving examples to the delegation, in particular related to free health and education services, and accessing residential permits on an annual basis. There were incidents when Jordanian nationality was withdrawn from children of Palestinian origin, leaving them stateless. None of that was in line with the national plan of action 2012 to 2013 ‘Jordan Fit for Children’.
Gender discrimination was one of the most serious problems in Jordan, an Expert said. Gender inequality affected all aspects of the life of girls. Girls in Jordan faced discrimination from birth as they were not considered by their families to be equal to boys and as valuable as boys. Girls were considered ‘a burden forever’ and considered ‘good for nothing’ but to get married. Indeed, from the age of 10, girls were only prepared to become brides. That attitude affected all of their childhood and pre-determined their adulthood. As a result, girls did not receive proper education either because they got married and pregnant very early, or because their parents did not want them to go to school.
Girls also faced discrimination in their inheritance rights, and by the law, as well as in their right to housing. It was a cultural issue and most gender discrimination came from families, the Expert commented, adding that it was a closed circle. Without taking away the legal rules that allowed for gender inequality, it would not be easy to overcome those social stereotypes. What was Jordan doing to tackle the problem?
Violence against girls was raised by an Expert, as well as ill-treatment of children in State and private institutions. The Committee paid tribute to people working in institutions for documenting and providing more information on them. The State party recently closed down five centres and gave around 30 a warning. Some 19 workers were convicted. Were the centres closed down and officials convicted for crimes of violence against children? The Committee hailed the various measures taken in the field of corporal punishment. Efforts taken to fight neglect and ill-treatment in the home were also welcomed, particularly the national census on the family and the new oversight system on violence in the family. Were all forms of violence in the home criminalized by legislation?
Response from the Delegation
All measures taken by Jordan in terms of amending legislation and drafting new laws were detailed in the report. However, in accordance with the Committee’s recommendation, the delegation would summarize those measures.
Jordan had ratified the majority of international human rights treaties, a delegate said. The Government upheld the rights of migrants through bilateral agreements with countries of origin. Jordan was taking measures to adhere to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, a delegate announced. Furthermore, Jordan’s ratification of the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was currently under consideration.
International conventions took legal precedence over domestic legislation, as enshrined in the constitution, the delegate confirmed, adding that many judges invoked international conventions in their sentencing. It was difficult to determine how many cases had had international human rights treaties invoked in them, he added. Furthermore the Government often convened workshops, seminars and training courses for members of the judiciary and the legal sector that taught and promoted international human rights treaties, he noted, giving as an example a case study about a child changing its name which invoked the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Children’s Parliament of Jordan was active, a delegate said, describing how it was made up of 25 children, who received special training. The Children’s Parliament also met with the Arab Parliament of Children to discuss regional issues, including that of the situation of Palestinian children, or of the right for their voice to be heard.
The draft bill on the Rights of the Child had been prepared by a committee in conjunction with all stakeholders, but was withdrawn from the National Assembly when it was found that it would simply duplicate the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the law that was passed to ratify it, as well as the fact that the Convention had been published in the official gazette. Today the bill was being redrafted to bring it into conformity with the Convention and to be an effective mechanism for its implementation at the national level.
The age of marriage in Jordan was 18 years old, a delegate said. However, there were exceptions for children aged between 15 and 18 years, which were strictly regulated and based on a 2010 law which set out a number of detailed conditions and stipulations. They included that marriage could not constitute a reason to withhold education from a child, that a husband had to be fully able to provide a life for his wife, and that a judge consulted with a social worker or psychologist before allowing the marriage to go ahead. Another condition might be when a child was born to a couple when parents were less than 18 years of age, so marriage may be of benefit to the parents. In the previous year the population of Jordan had increased from six to ten million, due to the concentrated inflow of Syrian refugees, the delegate said. That influx had led directly to a rise in the number of marriages of girls between 15 and 18 years of age by six per cent. However, the Government continued to apply its strict provisions
Questions from the Experts
The rules on custody did not exactly fit into the Committee’s view of a good family environment, an Expert said, citing laws that held in cases of divorce children could stay with their mothers only until the age of seven years, after which children lived with their fathers. Was there any concept of joint custody, the Expert asked?
There were considerably less boys than girls living in childcare institutions in Jordan, an Expert noted, asking what that meant. Were more girls abandoned, or did more girls run away than boys?
The huge challenges in the field of education faced by Jordan in light of the massive refugee flows coming from Syria since 2011 were well noted by the Committee, said an Expert. However, he was not clear what access to education non-Jordanian children had, or children who had lost their Jordanian nationality.
Turning to health issues, an Expert paid tribute to Jordan’s commendable efforts in establishing and rolling out a national anti-HIV/AIDS strategy. The Committee knew the HIV/AIDS statistics were quite low, but wondered if that was because it was quite a taboo and hidden illness in the country, including on mother-to-child transmission. Was there any awareness-raising on how HIV was contracted, particularly aimed at women?
The Expert also noted that women were encouraged to stop breastfeeding when infants were five months of age, and asked if there were any campaigns to encourage mothers to breastfeed for longer.
Measures to support vulnerable families living in poverty were raised by an Expert, who asked about the National Support Fund for vulnerable families. The highest percentages of children vulnerable because of poverty were among non-Jordanian and refugee and asylum-seeking populations. The Committee was aware that over the last 60 years Jordan had made huge efforts to host refugees from regional conflicts, including in recent years conflicts in Kuwait, Iraq, Palestine and now Syria. The Expert asked about the reported stripping of Jordanian nationality from families of Palestinian origin, which had reportedly left many children stateless.
The plight of unaccompanied children arriving in Jordan was raised. What status and rights did unaccompanied migrant children have in Jordan, what was their fate - were they deported?
On the subject of health, an Expert said the alarming levels of malnutrition of children in Jordan, particularly those in remote and rural areas as well as the Zaatari refugee camp, were a deep concern and the main causes of child morbidity. What social welfare rights were provided to children, such as health insurance, he also asked, especially in terms of protection from social and communicable diseases.
The Committee had heard alarming reports about adolescent health, particularly related to the criminalization of abortion in all situations. The Committee did not believe that the criminalization of abortion was a good response to the plight that mostly affected teenage girls; it instead favoured sound responsible sexual and reproductive health education.
The plight of the Syrian refugees was a huge issue, and an international responsibility, not just the problem of Jordan, an Expert stated. However, it remained the case that Jordan did have some responsibility to the children living on its territory. He raised cases of the separation of children from their parents. There were reports that Palestinian children had since 2013 been sent to Syria, and that some had been separated from their parents and even from their Jordanian mothers.
Regarding the legal rights of children, an Expert asked about the use of preventative custody for children, citing some disturbing cases provided to the Committee. What about the context of social reintegration for children who had been in trouble with the law, to emphasize better social rehabilitation rather than penal punishment?
Response from the Delegation
Regarding so-called “honour” crimes, a delegate explained that ‘affront or violation to one’s honour’ was not considered to be a mitigating circumstance in a criminal trial. Mitigating circumstances – both for men and women – could include extreme emotional provocation, but not honour. Since the law was amended in 2010 no accused person had been able to claim mitigating circumstances in order to gain a reduction in penalty.
The National Children’s Action Plan concluded in 2013 and was now being assessed. Consequently a new national action plan – drafted with contributions from all concerned stakeholders: children and professional adults who worked with children – was now being rolled out. The new plan included provisions for children with disabilities. The Ministry for Family Affairs worked closely with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, and they met regularly with other relevant Government bodies to discuss issues relating to the needs and rights of children. All legislation adopted in Jordan was rolled out nationwide, not regionally, a delegate clarified.
Awareness-raising of the Convention took place in schools and through nationwide campaigns. Adults naturally had a role in disseminating the Convention. The Ministry of Education had printed copies of the Convention and distributed them to children in schools. The Judicial Training Institute trained judges on the provisions of the Convention.
Regarding childcare, an initiative aimed at private companies that had a certain percentage of working mothers set up in-house crèches had been quite successful, with so far 80 crèches being opened. Government guidelines were in place to ensure the crèches were safe, well-run, with facilities and teaching that reached a minimum standard.
Children were allowed to make complaints of ill-treatment, providing the complaint did not constitute a crime under the Criminal Code. If a child was under 15 years and wanted to complain of a crime committed against them, then the child’s guardian had to submit the complaint. However, if a child could not convince their guardian to submit the complaint for them, the child could refer the case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. However, the Government was considering revising the Family Code to change the system under which children could make complaints.
In Jordan there was no term of ‘removal of nationality’, and no case of the withdrawal or removal of Jordanian nationality from a Palestinian child had been found, a delegate confirmed. However, it was found that people who left Jordan to work in Palestine may have given up their Jordanian nationality voluntarily.
On child marriage, a delegate confirmed that it was illegal for a child younger than 15 years of age to be married. Any case of a person being married under 15 years should be reported to the Family Court, in which case such a marriage would be annulled and those who had enabled it would be prosecuted under the Family Code and the Criminal Code. A delegate said he was 100 per cent certain that there was not a single case in Jordan of children between the age of 15 and 18 years being married without the consent of the girl, or any case that violated marriage legislation in general.
The Personal Status Code defined the act of marriage as being an act between a man and a woman to constitute a family, a household and to have children. On that basis, fair, legal, comprehensive and holistic consent to a marriage must take place – the key building block of a marriage was the full and free consent of both the man and the woman to that contract. Any girl aged between 15 and 18 years would be questioned individually, and in private, by a judge to determine whether she consented to the marriage or not. The judge would also meet with members of her family, and seek the input of a social worker and a psychologist. All such interviews took place to ascertain that the girl had freely consented and that her interests were fully protected within the marriage contract. A Supreme Judge would verify the decision of the first judge. There would also be health tests of both the bride and groom, in particular to test for communicable diseases.
An Expert said it was reported that around eight per cent, or more than 5,000 brides, were younger than 18 years of age, in a recent period of just 12 months. Did judges really interview 5,000 brides and all members of their family in such detail to determine they consented to the marriage? Furthermore, the Committee was informed that poverty was a major factor relating to child marriage.
An Expert commented that recent surveys showed that almost 30 per cent of people in Jordan did not support women working, and furthermore than 60 per cent of parents said they would not want their son to marry a woman who worked. What was the Government doing to change those attitudes?
Response from the Delegation
A delegate replied to the follow-up questions, saying that there were many regional courts in Jordan that dealt with cases of under-age marriage, and any court not following the proper procedure would be dealt with. No cases of marriage of a girl under the age of 15 years had been brought to a court. If there had been a breach of the Personal Status Code in the marriage of a girl between 15 and 18 years, it would be punishable under Article 279 of the Penal Code. If an underage marriage took place outside of Jordanian territory, once the couple returned to Jordan, people connected to the couple – including members of civil society – could file a complaint and bring proceedings in one of the family courts.
Responding to the comment by an Expert that Jordanians believed that girls ‘were a burden’, a delegate replied that the National Council for Family Affairs recently produced a report, based on questionnaires sent to households, on the lives of women and girls. The report, which was conducted along strict scientific guidelines, showed that in fact girls were favoured. That was evident in the number of girls in higher education, the fact that girls were given the choice of what subject they wished to study and more so that young women or girls were given a choice as to whom they wanted to marry. Far from being a burden, Jordanian families believed that girls had a special place and did anything possible to facilitate their lives and encourage them in their education.
Women did work in Jordan, that was a reality, regardless of societal opinions, a delegate said. Measures were being taken to support women in the workplace, such as the provision of day-care for children. Yes, there were families who preferred women to not work, but the Government’s response was to promote businesses that provided conducive working conditions for women. For example, the Labour Code granted women a wide range of rights, such as two years of maternity leave whether public or private sector, and one hour per day out of their working hours to breastfeed their babies.
The Head of Delegation took the floor to speak about the impact on Jordan – and specifically children residing in the country – of the Syrian crisis. He recalled that Syrian refugees had been coming to Jordan since the very beginning of the crisis, or civil war, in Syria when it broke out in March 2011. There had been an outflow of Syrian refugees to other neighbouring countries, but the majority headed to Jordan. The flows reached a peak of up to 300 refugees arriving daily, and one day a record 2,000 Syrians were recorded as having crossed the border. Currently there were 650,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, in addition to the 700,000 Syrians who already resided in Jordan from before the crisis broke out. The total number of Syrians living in Jordan today was 1,350,000. Given that the population of Jordan was only slightly over six million, the number of Syrians in the country equated to 20 per cent of the native population.
The flood of Syrians arriving had led to economic and financial constraints, the Head of Delegation continued. In order to guarantee the rights of the Syrian refugees – including children – such as their right to health, education, shelter, food and security – there was a financial cost. For that reason the Zaatari Camp was established, which was now home to more than 130,000 refugees. It was no longer appropriate to refer to it as a camp as it was now one of the biggest cities in Jordan.
Zaatari Camp’s existence required deep-rooted and long-term commitment from the Jordanian Government. Although international organizations, particularly the United Nations Refugee Agency, had been supportive, a large part of the financial burden fell on Jordan. The impact led to budget deficits. Jordan could not turn the Syrian refugees away, as they were fleeing to save their lives. But supporting them cost a great deal of money. Therefore Jordan had to go begging, bowl in hand, to donor countries.
Services to Syrian refugees cost US$4 billion per year. Of that, the amount received by donor countries was minimal. At the 2013 donor conference in Kuwait many promises of donations were received, but most of the money had not yet been received. The money promised and given by donor countries was earmarked and given directly to international organizations; only a very small amount was given directly to Jordan. The United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and a number of non-governmental organizations were working with Jordan to lighten the load. Nevertheless, Jordan still had to find 80 to 85 per cent of the money to pay for the Syrian refugees on its own.
Jordan’s border towns with Syria were the most affected. They gave what they could, sharing their daily bread, and many had opened up their homes but there had been a social cost, the Head of Delegation explained. He said that the majority of Jordanians did not like to use the term ‘Syrian refugee’ but preferred to say ‘our brothers and sisters from Syria’. They welcomed them, hosted them and shared in their suffering and their woes, as the people of Syria had done for Jordan in the past. Today Jordan wanted to repay that service, but it was a responsibility that should not just be borne by Jordan but by the international community as a whole. Jordan lacked resources and ranked among the five most vulnerable countries in the region, which further exacerbated the situation. The international community still needed to shoulder that responsibility, the Head of Delegation said.
In conclusion, the Head of Delegation emphasized that a large amount of the Syrian refugees were children. Jordan gave them health care, vaccinations, shelter, and food and welcomed them into mainstream public schools alongside Jordanian children. Those schools had had to completely change their operations, running two school days in one, with morning school for one group of children and afternoon school for another.
Syrians were not the only refugees or foreign populations, a delegate noted. There were a large number of Iraqi refugees who fled to Jordan following the war in Iraq of 2003, those who fled from the previous Saddam Hussein regime before the war, those who fled the 1991 occupation of Kuwait, and the many Palestinians living in Jordan.
There was no prohibition of Syrian, Iraqi or Palestinian families and children accessing services provided by Jordan, as set out in a 1998 to 2014 agreement with the United Nations Refugee Agency. There were claims of violence suffered by child refugees, but no cases had been proven, a delegate said. However, regular monitoring of the refugee camps was carried out.
Under Sharia law, there were particular laws on inheritance which were based on a mathematical equation, and there was no better system. Any refusal to apply that equation would be a huge deprivation of a woman’s right. Thankfully Sharia law defined the inheritance share due to women and took into account the rights of children, which was sometimes double the amount due to women, and in some circumstances women had the right to receive a higher inheritance than men.
There was no discrimination between girls and boys with regard to the right to education, and authorities were legally obliged to provide education to all children resident in Jordan regardless of their nationality. That provision was enshrined in the Personal Status Code. Jordan, which had a population of six million, had 27 universities. There were more young women attending university than men, and they tended to achieve the best grades as well, a delegate said, adding that Jordan had the lowest illiteracy rate in the Middle East. More girls were enrolled at higher educational levels then boys, at 52 per cent. Jordan had the lowest illiteracy rate in the region. There were no nationality requirements to enrol a child at school, and all Jordanian public and private schools had pupils who were not Jordanian nationals.
There were two policies concerning violence against children. First was the national strategy to protect children from domestic violence, and second the national strategic plan for protection from domestic violence. The latter encompassed a wide array of activities, such as statistical data collection which was entered into a database.
Corporal punishment of children in schools was prohibited. A 2011 amendment to the Penal Code allowed parents – the mother and the father of the child – to use a certain amount of corrective punishment, however. The amendment included restrictions to ensure that corrective punishment did not lead to any injury or damage. Any injury resulting from corrective punishment was sanctioned. However, today that provision was in effect suspended, as any attack on a child could be considered to be an injury – either physical or psychological. A campaign called ‘beating children is violence’ had been launched to raise awareness of the negative effects of corporal punishment and the Sharia principle that no violence should be levied upon a child. It also promoted alternatives to corporal punishment and non-violent ways in which parents could discipline their children.
Regarding the act of the removal of the uterus, which concerned women, a delegate said that if a person deliberately removed the uterus of a woman without her consent it was punishable by law. The removal of a bodily organ without medical reason was illegal. Even if a person who was unable to express their own will – such as a person with a mental disability – had their uterus removed, for example at the request of her family, it was still a prosecutable crime. It was illegal to remove the uterus of a woman with a mental disability, but it was true that the relevant legislation was not explicit or clear enough, he said. A new law was currently being drafted which addressed the illegal removal of uteruses and would specifically criminalize the act. He added that the Sharia concept of ‘blood money’ allowed for compensation, an amount of up to 100 times the income, whether the person had full mental capacities or not.
Regarding custody of children, the foremost principle was always the ‘best interest of the child’. Reports that a Muslim woman could keep her child only until the age of seven years could be a misreading of the legal text within the Personal Status Law. It might be possible for a mother, even if she were not a Muslim, to could keep the child for longer than seven years if it was in the best interest of the child. Joint custody was a new concept launched in 2012 that allowed one of the parents to keep a child for one to three days per week. That enabled both parents to make sure they followed up on the care of a child, although again the best interest of the child took precedence.
A woman who had a baby out of wedlock was by law known as the ‘foster mother’, and was allowed to keep the child if she could prove that she could provide for it, a delegate said. There had been a reduction in the number of cases of polygamy, a delegate said, but emphasized that a biological mother was considered the true mother of a child. A second wife did not have the right to care for the child of a first wife.
Regarding the gender balance in children’s homes, a delegate explained that there were both Government-run and non-governmental organization-run institutions; there were approximately 25 in Jordan which collectively were home to approximately 800 boys and girls, the delegate said. He said it was difficult to say whether there were more girls than boys in children’s homes, but he could say that fewer boys were being born than girls in Jordan.
The school dropout rate was four per cent, a delegate said. The concept of ‘drop-out’ was considered to be both dropping out of school and irregular attendance. More boys than girls dropped out of school, because boys often went to work instead to help their families make ends meet. To rectify that the Government ran a campaign in which it removed those children from the labour market and sent them back to school.
The authorities needed to redouble their efforts to ensure the implementation of the national framework to combat child labour, which had an important component on the integration of children into education. An amendment to the law on education provided for penalties for parents who took their children out of education and sent them to work. Furthermore, parents of children who worked had to forfeit their social security benefits.
Jordan had the lowest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the Arab World. The National HIV/AIDS strategy had four components: the reintegration of persons who were infected, protection for persons who were not infected and awareness-raising for caregivers and non-infected partners. There were campaigns to combat misinformation, such as that HIV could be caught just be being around an infected person.
There was a campaign to promote the advantages of ‘natural’ breastfeeding, raising awareness of the best ways of incorporating breastfeeding within the family routine. There were also laws prohibiting the marketing of unnatural breastfeeding alternatives. There was also guidance for medical professionals on recommending powdered milk.
Jordan categorized children with disabilities as ‘children with particular or unique needs’, or ‘children with reduced mobility’. A delegate spoke about the Government policy to try to keep children with special needs in mainstream education. That was done by encouraging schools or providing the necessary physical infrastructure that allowed such a policy of inclusion to take place. The Government sought to integrate to the greatest extent possible those children into school and had made financial resources available to do so.
Regarding children in conflict with the law, a delegate said that in Jordan the age of criminal responsibility was currently seven years of age, but a draft bill currently being considered would increase the age to 12 years. The Juvenile Law addressed the needs of children in conflict with the law, and took into account the social circumstances surrounding their situation, as well as providing for the rehabilitation of the delinquent juveniles. There were alternative penalties to the deprivation of the liberty of the child.
Questions from the Experts under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
RENATE WINTER, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, asked how information about and training on the Optional Protocol was disseminated, and which Ministry was responsible for its implementation. It was reported that the Jordanian armed forces allowed recruitment of children aged 17 years and over, he said, but the report also referred to the recruitment of children from the age of 15 years, and asked for clarification. What was the difference between schools run by the military and general public schools, as both schools took children from six years of age?
The State party’s report stated there were no non-State armed groups or militia in Jordan, but the Committee had reports that such actors were present in refugee camps on Jordanian territory, the Country Rapporteur said, asking what was being done to tackle the problem. She also asked how the Government checked whether refugee children coming into Jordan had been used as child soldiers, and how they treated them.
The delegation was also asked about Jordanian legislation on extradition, and whether people involved in war crimes using children were considered to be ordinary criminals or criminals under international criminal law.
Response by the Delegation to questions on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
It was not possible for children under the age of 18 years to be enlisted in the army - children were not enlisted either formally or informally into the armed forces of Jordan, a delegate emphasized, adding that Jordan was free of such practices.
Details of Jordanian legislation covering all forms of involvement in the military and security forces were provided, and a delegate explained that each territorial administration of Jordan had a law which governed its activities. One law applied to the carrying out of military service in the Jordanian army. Another governed the operations of law enforcement agencies, and applied to members of the police and security forces. A further piece of legislation governed the civil defence branch, while another referenced paramilitary activities.
The military schools were aimed to provide facilities to the children of military families, for example those living on a military base. They did not offer any special military or weapons training and the curriculum was the same as in other public schools. Students wore a school uniform that had no military style or insignia to it.
Concerning non-State armed groups operating outside Jordan, a delegate said that Jordanian law only applied to any act that took place within Jordanian territory – it could not be applied to cases of children recruited by armed groups outside the country.
Regarding reports of non-State armed groups recruiting children in the refugee camps in Jordan, a delegate said any individual found to be committing such a crime – conscription or recruitment of children, whether Jordanian or any other nationality – would be prosecuted with the full force of the law, with relevant sanctions applied.
Former child soldiers arrived in Jordan as child refugees, not as child combatants, a delegate said. It did not matter whether they had been recruited by the Syrian army or by other State or non-State actors; Jordan treated them as children, not as ex combatants. Jordan sought to rehabilitate the children and provide them with all the help and support they might need.
Extradition was governed by international conventions and laws. Extradition requests received by Jordan were reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and were influenced by international law, by domestic law, by the conditions that needed to be met and the existence of any bilateral agreement.
Questions from the Experts under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, began by saying Jordan deserved special mention for the fact that it acceded to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children in 2006 without any reservations whatsoever, which was commendable. Several years later, although Jordan was in a very difficult situation, especially as far as children were concerned, Mr. Gastaud highlighted that Jordan had taken many positive and commendable measures to relive the suffering of children, particularly regarding the issues of child labour and children living on the street.
Mr. Gastaud said the main concerns of the Committee were the principles of the Optional Protocol which had not been translated into domestic law, namely regarding “reprehensible acts” which had not been explicitly transposed into penal conditions nor led to sanctions for offenders. It was clear that the law of Jordan suppressed trafficking, including of organs, but that was distinct from the ‘sale’ of children. The law referred to ill-repute and debauchery, but they were not the same as prostitution. It listed the sale and exchange of pornography, but had no explicit mention of child pornography. Furthermore, those crimes carried only very light sentences which did not provide enough dissuasion to perpetrators. It was difficult for the Committee to ask questions about crimes and offences which were not enshrined in domestic law.
Jordan had taken many measures to combat trafficking in persons, but there was scant information concerning prosecution, conviction and sentences handed down to perpetrators, the Country Rapporteur said. The Committee had received many cases of sexual exploitation of girls, and would like to know what had been done to convict the perpetrators and provide physical and psychological care to child victims of trafficking or pornography. Mr. Gastaud asked whether there were any cases in which the Optional Protocol was used for grounds for extradition, and asked about reports that Syrian refugee girls had been forced into prostitution, or trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation.
There were regulations in place to address the problem of sexual tourism but what kind of monitoring was applied to the people targeted by those regulations, the delegation asked. Jordan was commended for setting up a hotline for complaints, which was a welcome development, and was asked how often was it used and by whom?
Response from the Delegation to questions on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
A delegate spoke about legislation designed to prevent the crime of trafficking in persons giving the example that domestic law explicitly prohibited the confiscation of passports and the trafficking of human organs. Legislation reform had taken place following Jordan’s ratification of the Palermo Protocols, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the delegate said, adding that a law was adopted in 2009 that criminalized any and every form of trafficking in persons. There was also legislation on prostitution, on abduction and on taking hostage for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Of course things were not perfect in Jordan but the Government was working hard to make it the best it could be, he said.
The crime of trafficking was defined as attracting people, sheltering them, transporting them, coercing them or threatening or forcing them, kidnapping and abuse of authority with the aim of exploitation. ‘Attracting’ children aged 18 years or younger for the purposes of exploitation – even if no threat was used – was also illegal. The term “exploitation” implicitly included “sale” and therefore the sale of children was criminalized in Jordan, a delegate explained.
A specialized Government unit, the National Anti-Trafficking Unit, was established to investigate and prevent crimes of trafficking in persons. The personnel serving in the unit received special training. The Unit managed a hotline which operated in several languages, to make it accessible to people of non-Jordanian nationalities. People could use the hotline to lodge complaints which prompted quick investigations. There was also a field working group composed of officials from various ministries who examined alleged cases of trafficking and exploitation.
Awareness-raising campaigns were carried out to make vulnerable people and other stakeholders aware of the risks and signs of trafficking and to give them tools to prevent them from falling into such traps. Targeted training was given to the border security forces to ensure they had all the knowledge and instruments they needed to prevent and tackle child exploitation.
Assistance and protection for victims of trafficking was available through various programmes. Specific forms of protection were available for men, women and children. A woman victim of trafficking was absolutely not liable to be prosecuted for the crime of an indecent act, a delegate clarified. Victim centres, hostels and some hospital departments, run by the Ministry for Social Development, hosted all victims of discrimination and other violations, including trafficking victims, but the Government planned to establish specialist centres that served only the specific needs of trafficking victims.
A delegate outlined the legislation in place to prevent sexual exploitation and the dissemination of child pornography, including on the internet. Furthermore, the crime of disseminating pornographic images of children under the age of 18 or a person with disabilities carried a sanction of three months in prison and a fine. The sanctions could also include forced labour.
Follow-Up Questions from the Experts
An Expert said the delegation had denied that the sterilization of intellectually disabled girls took place in Jordan. However, the Director of the Gynaecological Service of a leading hospital in Jordan had reported that many such hysterectomies took place. Could the delegation please comment?
Another Expert said the delegation said that no refugees were stripped of their nationality, but, prior to the Syria crisis, Human Rights Watch had identified almost 2,000 cases of duel Palestinian and Jordanian nationals who had their Jordanian nationality stripped from them, for example when they went to renew their passports, leaving them stateless.
The Committee had information that one third of the children living in Jordanian orphanages had been born out of wedlock. As the delegation affirmed that unmarried mothers did not have a problem to keep their children, could it please explain why such a high proportion of the children were in State institutions?
An Expert asked about the marriage contract, which tended to be signed by a ‘proxy person’ – either the father or an institution. Usually a girl gave ‘proxy’ to her father, and only very wealthy and educated girls dealt with their marriage contract themselves. Were there any statistics available on that?
Response by the Delegation
Nobody’s nationality had been withdrawn, but because of the dissolution of the administrative and legal link, when people joined the armed forces or the administration of the Palestinian Authority, Jordan reviewed their situation and took the view that dual nationality should be avoided. Children born of a Jordanian father were considered to be Jordanian; nationality was tied to the father, not the mother. However, a Ministerial Decree did grant privileges to children born to a Jordanian mother and a non-Jordanian father, a delegate clarified.
The sterilization of persons with intellectual disabilities was a crime, a delegate confirmed. Although some articles in the media may assert that it took place in some hospitals, it was still a crime. If a complaint was brought to the Office of the Prosecutor then the perpetrator would duly be prosecuted.
A mother who had a child outside of wedlock could keep her child, a delegate affirmed.
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan, thanked the delegation for the dialogue and information provided, which gave a broader picture of the situation of children’s rights in Jordan. Although the pending Juvenile Act and law on domestic violence may resolve some concerns, questions remained about so-called ‘honour killings’ and health issues, especially in remote areas, he said.
RENATE WINTER, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said the initial report was always the most difficult, as there were gaps to be bridged, and she hoped that the next report would be more complete as the State party would have time to establish systems. She was sure that Jordan would not find that difficult, including the harmonization of its military recruitment age. Jordan was assisting its neighbouring country so much and carried a huge burden, and Ms. Winter felt sure it would learn more about how to solve the different ways that various refugees were treated.
BERNARD GASTAUD, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the report of Jordan under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, thanked the delegation and said the Committee took note of Jordan’s willingness to act. Some of the answers plugged gaps in the Committee’s understanding, and it had also cleared up several concerns. Other concerns remained and would be outlined in the concluding observations.
MUIB NIMRAT, Director of the Human Rights Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriate Affairs of Jordan, thanked the Committee for the positive interactive dialogue and said its comments would be studied very seriously by all relevant national stakeholders and help Jordan improve its human rights record in general and the rights of the child in particular. In spite of the tensions in the Middle East and their repercussions, and the responsibilities shouldered by Jordan, it remained dedicated to upholding human rights and continuing the process of legislative and institutional reform. Nevertheless, Jordan called on the international community to share the financial and moral burden of the Syrian crisis.
For use of the information media; not an official record