Dec 12 2014

Men and Women Call on Jordan’s MP Hind Fayez to Stand Tall

Published by at 11:53 am under Articles,Jordan


By Daoud Kuttab

On the first of December 1955 (the year I was born), a 42-year-old African-American woman, Rosa Parks, made a defiant gesture by refusing to give up her bus seat despite a call by the white bus driver to stand.

The residents of Montgomery, Alabama responded to Parks’ defiance by totally boycotting the discriminatory bus company until it changed its policy.

Fifty-nine years later, almost to the day, a deputy in the Jordanian parliament, Yihya Saud “ordered” defiant MP Hind Fayez to sit down. The call: “Uqudi ya Hind” (sit down Hind) was captured on video and went viral on YouTube as Jordanians and others circulated the footage. Not only did Saud bark out this order, but he also cursed those who introduced the quota system which allowed women to reach Parliament.

No doubt the words that Saud addressed to his colleague are not new to most women who are used to men ordering them around, especially if they have the guts to stand up for what they believe.

Women MPs (not the men) attempted to stand up for their female colleague in the next Lower House session and sat in the foyer rather than their allotted seats. But the boycott didn’t last long and they were convinced to return to the chamber without Saud having apologized.

Women, who make up half the population, are represented by 18 out of the 150 Lower House members — a mere 12 percent. Due to this low level of female representation, Jordan rank is 115 out of 155 parliaments.

In the Arab region, Tunisia has the highest representation of women, with 68 MPs (31 percent), and ranks 34th in the world.

The insult that Fayez and all Jordanian women received in Parliament on December 2 has produced no serious reaction. A women’s organisation issued a statement protesting against what happened, but no further action was taken by the Kingdom’s women or men. In a country full of well-funded women’s NGOs and human rights organisations, as well as human rights societies from both sexes who claim to advocate the rights of women, the reaction to the offence is very sad.

It shows that Jordan’s civil society is not serious about one of the most fundamental human rights in the world, namely the need for gender equality. Women continue to be discriminated against, both formally in courts, in government and in business (and probably even in civil society organisations), and informally in all walks of life.

As the world celebrates the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, it is important to realise that verbal violence is the originator of physical violence against women. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been endorsed in most countries of the world, including Jordan, declares in its first article: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Perhaps the most powerful statements ever made in terms of pointing out this issue, was at the 1995 Beijing Conference by then US first lady Hillary Clinton, when she insisted that women’s rights are human rights.

“As long as discrimination and inequities remain so commonplace around the world — as long as girls and women are valued less, fed less, fed last, overworked, underpaid, not schooled and subjected to violence in and out of their homes — the potential of the human family to create a peaceful, prosperous world will not be realised.”

Nearly six decades after Parks’ refusal to heed the “orders” to stand up to give up her seat to a white man, it is time to tell Fayez and all the women of Jordan and the world to stand up in pride and confidence, and that all of us men and women will be supporting you.

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