I don’t want to write an essay about history and future and present. I was simply looking at this chart from Roba’s blog, in a post entitled Let the Math Speak.
Afghanistan and Iraq, the two occupied countries, top the chart with 27.3 and 25.5% respectivly. Israel comes in 3rd with 15%. Jordan is at 5.5%
Well I’m not going to say this has anything to do with America spreading “democracy” in the region, especially since traditionalist Syria, a proud member of the Axis of evil, stands out with a 12%
But it’s funny because everyone looks at numbers differently. Sometimes we just look at them and get dissapointed but we make the same mistake other people do. We make the mistake of thinking that every Arab country has the exact same demographics, religion, culture and traditions as the next Arab country, when in fact each one has it’s unique set of circumstances. We should pay attention to this because we can’t always scream Bloody Murder (aka Women’s rights!) everytime we see such numbers. I know it’s the modern thing to do; feminism has become fashionable in Jordan lately amongst the more elite.
However there is a big difference between the following two situations which highlight women’s rights in the Arab world…
In the first situation women are not allowed to vote, they are not allowed to run for office or a parliamentary seat.
In the second situation women are allowed to vote, they are allowed to run for office or a parliamentary seat.
The second situation is what we have in Jordan since 1974. So why the 5.5 per cent?
Let’s do some math.
6 of the 110 seats are reserved exclusively for women in the Lower House by a special quota. This means the least number of women we can have in Parliament in any session is 6: hence the 5.5%
Let’s look at some facts from the last election:
Now around 765 candidates ran but this included only 54 women. This was actually an overwhelming increase from the 17 that ran in 1997, so you can imagine. Only 6 got seats and this was because of the enforced quota.
But this may blow your mind: the eligable number of voters in Jordan at the time was 2.3 million. However people serving in the armed forces are not allowed to vote (as to avoid a political army of sorts) and sense a great deal of our (male) population serves in the army in one capacity or another this means that women are actually the majority of the electorate. In other words logically a member of parliament cannot (or ideally should not) get a seat without courting the women’s vote.
So all this begs the question of: why don’t more women run? And why don’t more women vote for them? Social taboos? Political Apathy?
Ah but wait. The quota system was only meant to push women to participate in politics, women can also get themselves a seat without the quota. If they get more votes than their male counter part in a certain district then they win the seat fair and square. If they loose well the government collects all the votes of other women candidates and allocate them according to how many voted for them (i’m not sure of the math here) and essentially chooses someone to take a seat through the quota.
The quota system is one of those situations: by implementing it you recognise women as a minority and send the message that women cannot run or win on their own, on the other hand it is a form of positive discrimination that is meant to encourage women to vote and run. When it comes to the latter, well it made a big enough splash in the country.
I generally don’t like the quota system. It actually only ends up putting more people in parliament that are not qualified to be there! Forget about what gender they happen to be, the fact is if people go out to vote and they dont elect a women and the system ends up putting a woman they didnt want in a seat of parliament then this only makes matters worse. The quota was used once for the sake of encouraging participation and it should be removed for the next one. People should win on their own merit.
And this is heart of matters; people should win on their own merit. People should run and win according to the politics they have to offer and not their gender. Our population votes now purely on family (by tribe), on religion (Islam or Christianity), or origin (Jordanian, Palestinian etc). Only a small minority (and I mean small) actually vote on a political platform, and that’s IF a platform is available in the first place.
But to speak in a broader term, women have done little in parliament (for their causes) despite the quota. In truth the parliament all together is in terrible shape.
Anyways if women want to actually make a difference and push for their rights (such as an honor killings law) in parliament they need to allocate all their resources and efforts towards the masses and their constituency, not their government. Why not launch full scale programs to educate and inform female citizens about their voting rights and the need for them to vote? Programs to train potential candidates? Offer free courses for female students in Jordan at the Institute of Diplomacy.
I’m sure there are such programs (actually I’m just hoping here) but I figure since I havn’t heard anything about them they havn’t really been making much of a difference. Pushing the government to give them special treatment only worsens the situation, not only does it put more unqualified people in parliament but it makes the people resist women even more. Hiding behind the government security blanket is not a viable long term solution.