A new children’s rights bill passed the lower house on September 19, but Jordan’s parliament is still divided over the bill that has been debated since 2015 and reintroduced this past July.
We celebrate the news that #Jordan passed the children’s rights bill on Sunday guaranteeing that all children have the right to education, health and social carehttps://t.co/utLUnC6kt9 @NCFAJORDAN pic.twitter.com/PU8aCDiOx4
— Bernard van Leer Fdn (@BvLFoundation) April 21, 2022
The Law for Children’s Rights was first drafted and scrapped in 1998. Despite signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and ratifying it in 2006, the country lacks specific child protection laws. The National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA) was established by royal decree in 2001. Since 2015, the organization has been negotiating with parliament to draft a national law.
In 2019, UNICEF released its “National Study on Violence Against Children in Jordan.” In their national sample, the study found that 74.6% of children aged 8-17 had experienced at least one form of physical violence, 58.3% experienced at least one form of psychological violence, and 27.3% experienced sexual violence. This study was brought up repeatedly by proponents of the new bill, which would specifically address new children’s rights for healthcare, education, and entertainment and protections from forced labor, beggary, and addiction.
Secretary General of the NCFA, Mohammed Mogdadi, considers the Children’s Right Law “a constitution for children against which future progress can be measured.” The new bill, which local advocacy groups have championed, also allows for the ability of responsible adults, including teachers, to report abuse.
Opponents of the bill see it as an attempt by western NGOs to “degrade the Jordanian family unit.” Dr. Eyad Qunaibi, a prominent preacher, says the proposed law is an effort to “set our societies on the same path of decline that western societies are on.” He claims the rights bill will encourage children to leave their religion and their families and live “in a society of sexual deviants.” Further, he claims that the legislation is an UN-backed initiative to take Jordanian children away to be given to European families.
Critics also point to a report from the UK’s Office of National Statistics, which revealed that, in 2021, more babies were born to unwed mothers than married ones.
Last week, Jordanian MP Suleiman Abu Yehya called on teachers to use corporal punishment when needed. He was vehemently opposed by MP Saleh al-Armouti, who told a local newspaper, “We have been beaten, and we want to ensure our children and grandchildren are not being beaten. We reject corporal punishment, whether light or otherwise, in schools.” Yehya countered that lack of discipline leads to selling drugs.
General Secretary Mogdadi has been working diligently with the 130-member parliament, who seem split on sticking with tradition vs. modernization. He rejects the claims that the proposed law is “too western” and “subverts Islam.” The drafters of the proposal, he says, have removed clauses that were even slightly sensitive to the conservatives, but “some people are reading and analyzing beyond what the actual clauses say.” “They don’t seem to have read the text,” he added.