A recent editorial in the Jordan Times discussed a petition by Jordanian women to Prime Minister Adnan Badran which reserves 20 seats for them in the next minicpual elections; a quota system.
While I feel hesitant to endorse any type of quota system concerning elections in the name of maintaining free elections, I also feel that Jordanian women need a mechanism which assures them a position of power that allows them to channel the concerns of women in the country. But on what level?
The problem however is that why should something exist to say "we will gaurentee women 20 seats". Is this because women who run are not elected? Isn’t that the process though? Isn’t that one of the consequences of running: not winning? Do we really need something in the name of gender equality?
The constitution says women can hold public office and work. The state religion says women are equal to men. Another thing is that times have changed and women are not exactly seen as traditional Jordanian homemakers, at least not according to people who vote for them. Women have been winning and loosing council seats for awhile now. We even had the first woman mayor in ’95. This is a social indicator unto its own.
If this was concerning parliament then I would understand. In these cases we are talking about positions in which women members can actually push for legislations and reforms which directly concern Jordanian women who represent 50% of the country and around 20% of the work force. But quotas for local councils? I don’t believe any mechanism should be placed to ensure gender equality. You run, whether male or female. If you win then you win. If you loose then you loose. You really don’t need someone holding office simply to say men and women are equal. We already know this, elections should reflect who is best for the job regardless of gender.
Dosn’t such a quota only send the message that women are actually inferior because they cannot win an election as Jordan’s first female legislator, Toujan Faisal, once said? Where it should mater: HM King Abdullah ammended the law in 2003 to increase the number of seats for women in parliament. This is the major leagues. I say this because we have a parliament which rejects laws concerning many women rights such as Honor Crimes (as they did in 2003).
The quota here should be increased. Women have come a long way in modern Jordanian history. They have been able to vote and run for office since the 70’s, while many of our regional neighbours still don’t allow their women citizens to do so. Kuwait has only recently allowed it. The illiteracy rate has gone from 54% to 13%. Though the road for women in the country is still a long one and while more countries are fighting to achieve rights Jordanian women have been constitutionally and legally gaurenteed for decades, we should be concerned with other things such as health care, education, family planning and other major women reforms.
This is done on the Parliamentary level. As for local councils, let the people elect freely I say.