#WAJ: Women and the Personal Status Law
On July 12th, ARDD- Legal Aid conducted a training on the Jordanian Personal Status Law in Zarqa, with the help of a lawyer to teach active women in the community. These women came from different backgrounds. Some were teachers, others were nurses and social workers, but what they all shared in common was their desire to help vulnerable women in need. The session aimed at introducing the participants to the Women Access to Justice Phase II project and provided an overview of women’s legal rights in family related issues. By strengthening the knowledge of key women in the community, who often are the first responders to the needs of the most vulnerable, women in the community as a whole will have a better understanding of their rights under the law and the proper pathways to access justice.
Despite the participants background it was clear that such trainings on rights and entitlements are necessary. Such information on rights and entitlements citizens are afforded under the law is neither readably available nor covered in the education system leaving major gaps in understanding among the population. Many women forfeit their rights since they do not know them or the means to go about accessing them, not to mention the social barriers and stigma those who do attempt to assert their rights face.
One of ARDD-Legal Aid’s legal services unit members went over the law and gave the participants common legal scenarios and asked the women to explain what was the legal solution and rights of the women in each case. It was clear for the answers that there were many misconceptions about the law. The session addressed the marriage contract, divorce, marital maintenance, custody, and inheritance. The trainees reacted very well to the interactive scenarios of the presentation debating with each other the proper course of action and questioning the applicable right in each case.
The women were very eager to learn more and some were even shocked by the discriminatory nature of some of the laws. On the other hand some women were surprise that their rights were protected in some common family law areas that they never were made aware of before. One such example is the issue of the prolonged absence or abandonment by the husband. Depending on the circumstances the wife is within her legal right to assume that her husband is not coming back and take legal action and move on with their lives.
There still is a long way to go to build the awareness among the community of their legal rights to a healthy level. Ignorance on the law leads to increased violence, impunity of the perpetrator, unsafe home, and contributes to the cycle of violence. If one does not know their rights they will not be able to access them and it is difficult for the justice system to provide its services if the general public is unaware how to seek legal redress for a violation of their legal rights. Even among active community members there is still a large gap in knowledge, but this also highlights the plight of vulnerable women who lack education, employment, and economic stability. We cannot forget about their access to justice!