A woman’s right to inherit is enshrined in Sharia law, yet in many cases women in the Jordanian society failed to secure this, and other, rights. The reasons are many.
The Jordanian law guarantees women’s rights, but it is often violated, due to ignorance or long-enshrined, and incorrect, social customs, which results in denying women their rights, including that to inherit, and this is one of the most prominent aspects of discrimination against and economic deprivation of women.
The right to inherit is one of the most important economic rights established for women in Sharia and Personal Status Law. The Jordanian Personal Status Law deals with women’s rights to inherit, whether as mothers, wives, daughters or sisters, in many articles, including 287, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295 and 296.
With regard to a woman’s right to inherit, Article 289 of the Jordanian Personal Status Law stipulates a wife inherits one-fourth if the husband’s property if there are no children borne out of the marriage or one-eighth if they have children.
Article 285 of the Personal Status Law recognizes as heirs a deceased man’s mother, wife, daughter/s, son’s daughter/s, the sister to parents, father’s sister, mother’s sister, and the grandmother.
The causes that contribute to depriving women of their share of inheritance are many; most common is women no knowing what their rights are by law.
The story of a 53-year-old woman is an example of the many cases of women deprived of their rights.
The woman is married to a merchant whose financial situation is “good”, and who has 6 adult children from his first wife.
After 15 years of marriage, the husband got Alzheimer’s, When his eldest son found out about his father’s illness, he managed to convince his father to give him general agency over his property and began withdrawing his father’s money from banks, and distributing them to his other brothers. Eventually they threw their stepmother out of the house. She went to live with her family, but feeling wronged, she resorted to the legal aid department of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), which lent its supported by filing a case against the husband, who is mentally incapacitated, and appointing the court as legal guardian for the husband, to manage his money and to hold the agent (his eldest son) accountable if his financial actions are not within the limits of the agency, so that the funds are managed in a manner that is fair for all the heirs.
Even before taking these measures, a lawyer from ARDD’s legal department went with the wife to the governor of Amman who ordered that she be returned her to her marital home and that the children sign a pledge not to harm her in any way.
The wife now lives with her sick husband, and takes care of him, and part of her financial expenses and all her legal rights have been returned.
This is but one story out of hundreds of similar cases, which show that depriving women of their rights is quite common in the Jordanian society, and that traditions and social norms have deviated from the justice of Sharia and other laws.
Raising women’s awareness to the rights they are entitled to by law, and raising community’s awareness of the need to abandon customs and traditions that deprive women of their rights is urgently needed today. Inaction in this respect is unacceptable. Lack of awareness about their rights makes women vulnerable victims of persecution and discrimination, and incapable of fighting to protect themselves, even though there are many human rights institutions that provide a helping hand, to women as well as to all segments of the society, for free.