Written by Hanaa al-Shloul and translated by Ghassan Makarem
As long as the prevailing conflict in Arab societies remains economic, justice will be the only means for radical change, when women become unequivocally equal to men in the job market and the family. Thus, the Jordanian state and community organizations aim to achieve economic justice, address institutional issues, raise the awareness of women, adopt laws to enable them economically, and combat economic violence.
Economic abuse is defined as a form of domestic violence, where husbands control the resources of their wives. Women are forced to become dependent and incapable of managing their property, mainly when husbands act in violation of the law or their wishes.
Economic exploitation is one of the most socially widespread and destructive human rights violations. The prevalence of violence against women - whether at home or in society - remains high globally and in developing countries in particular. Thus, new strategies and holistic approaches must be developed to enable women to live free from the threat of violence.
Violent practices against women are intentional and take several verbal and physical forms. They contradict human rights in general and women's rights in particular, including the most basic of rights. Accordingly, the entire society will suffer severe social and economic consequences. Violence against women is not restricted to a particular religion or culture. It is rather a human phenomenon.
There are several definitions of economic violence. According to the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the European Institute for Gender Equality defines economic violence as "any act or behavior causing economic harm to an individual. Economic violence may cause property damage, restriction of access to financial resources, education, the job market, or non-compliance with economic responsibilities such as alimony."1
Stories of Jordanian Women (Defaulters)
Social networking sites are full of stories about Jordanian women. Farah,2 a woman in her twenties, did not expect that her wedding dress would turn into a jail uniform less than one year after her marriage. She is now an inmate in the Joueida Correctional and Rehabilitation Center for women in Jordan.
There is also Mona. She was arrested by the security forces after a complaint against her filed by a company that had given her a loan. The problematic situation meant that she had to stop paying in 2015. But the price was imprisonment.
Farah and Mona's stories are but two of the thousands of stories about Jordanian women who are currently in jail or awaiting imprisonment for defaulting on their loans.
Um Hamza, another Jordanian woman, described the tragic outcome that befell her and her family due to the "trap" of lending companies. She told Al-Khaleej Online that she and both her daughters are under prosecution.3
She explained that she had borrowed 1,000 Jordanian Dinars and had to pay back 1,600 after interest. One of her daughters also borrowed 500 Dinars (1,100 Dinars after interest), and the other took out two loans of 1,000 Dinars to be paid back at 1,400 Dinars each.
In addition to the economic situation, a fire broke out in her house and forced Um Hamza to borrow money. "We are facing jail because we cannot pay back our loans," she said. "We can't leave the house for any reason. We don't want to be caught by the police and arrested."
Around 5,672 women who defaulted on loans of less than 1,000 JD are facing court orders, and 30 women are in jail for the same reason.
Another woman suffered severe injuries and later died after jumping from the second floor after the police came to kick her and her children (between 19 and 16 years old) out of their home because she could not pay the rent. She was 40 and suffered from cancer, her neighbor lawyer Zinat al-Jurairi told Ammon News.4
Jordanians expressed sorrow for Um al-Abed, who was poor, sick, and in constant fear of being imprisoned for her back rent. She paid with her life for a debt that did not exceed a few hundred Dinars.
"A mother's absence from her family for a long time due to imprisonment exposes the family to major risks," said Fadwa al-Khawaldeh, Research Director at the National Commission for Women. "It threatens its cohesion and exposes it to total collapse."
Khawaldeh added that loans to women would inevitably lead to "the risk of deviance for teenagers, as mothers remain outside the house for longer times, in addition to children losing their essential needs for care, nutrition, and education."
Economic experts in the Jordanian state5 warn about women falling prey to microcredit. The current economic situation could be a hindrance to the success of such projects. They called for tighter controls on finance companies causing this crisis and stressed that the rate of success of small projects and passing the risk stage is almost negligible.
Official Actions and the Role of State Institutions
On Friday, March 3, 2019, His Majesty King Abdullah II launched a national campaign to assist women who defaulted on their debt. He said he would be the first to support efforts to help "our defaulting daughters and sisters."6
During a call to the morning show (Yes'ed Sabahak) on the local state-funded station, King Abdullah II called for a national effort and popular mobilization to support Jordanian women who defaulted on their loans due to the difficult financial situation. His call did not appear from a void. Recent numbers have indicated the economic deterioration of national endeavors, and His Majesty is keen to protect the dignity of Jordanian women. "Coordination between the government, the central bank, and loan agencies [is a must] to avoid the suffering of women defaulters in the future," King Abdullah II stressed.7
On the occasion of Mother's Day, His Majesty decided to launch an initiative to support women defaulters. The response of government institutions, the private sector, and especially microcredit agencies was remarkable. Earlier endeavors by the Emirati Red Crescent and the Jordanian Zakat Fund had allocated funds to cover the loans and freed several women from correctional facilities. However, His Majesty's initiative took this one step further, calling on the government, the Central Bank of Jordan, and credit agencies to coordinate together to put an end to the suffering of defaulting women. Merely paying the loans might address the problem's effects, but not its roots. Court orders to jail women defaulters began to rise again.8
According to the Council of Ministers, there are five conditions for the first group of women defaulters who will benefit from the Jordan Generosity campaign, which collected around 2.4 million JD.9
They must be under a court order for loans of less than 1,000 JD, and they should provide evidence of the poverty of their family property and financial capacity, which hinders them from repayment.
Women defaulters are allowed to benefit from the campaign only once, so as not to encourage further loans. Moreover, the case must not be linked to fraud or any other criminal act.
The Council of Ministers stipulated that beneficiaries' family income must not exceed 600 JD per month.
Abdel Nasser Abu Al-Basal, Minister of Awqaf, Islamic Affairs and Holy Sites and Chairman of the Zakat Fund Board, directed the Fund's management to form an "urgent" working group to follow the royal initiative to support women defaulters according to royal directives.10
Abu Al-Basal announced a joint coordination committee to implement the royal initiative. It includes the Zakat Fund, the Ministry of Justice, the National Relief Fund, and the Directorate of General Security.
He told Al-Mamlaka TV that the national campaign would only cover women with "financial cases that are not recurrent." He added that the fundraising campaign would not support those with a criminal record. It will only cover those without an income or salary.
Additionally, unspecified amounts will go to "women defaulters who cannot repay small amounts of money," according to the minister. Abu al-Basal indicated that these criteria and standards were drafted in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Development "because there are sufficient joint studies" between the two sides.
Around 5,672 women who defaulted on loans of less than 1,000 JD are facing court orders, and 30 women are in jail for the same reason. Both groups will benefit from the criteria and standards mentioned above.
Governmental sources told Al-Mamlaka TV that the royal initiative addressed the cases of 5,976 women defaulters who met the committee's criteria. The value of payments ranged between 1,036 JD and 1100 JD.11
This voluntary initiative left a real imprint on resolving the Jordanian economic conflict. It emphasized the national passions and social solidarity of Jordanians by standing together to protect women and defend their issues.
According to the website of the National Committee for Women’s Affairs:
الغارمات.. قروض مالية تودي بأردنيات للسجون وأطفالهن للمجهول بقلم أيمن فضيلات<
"الغارمات" في الأردن.. "نواعم" ألقتهنَّ الديون خلف القضبان
بقلم حبيب السالم
According to the Media news site:
According to the Arabs' Voice website:
10 According to Al Mamlaka TV: https://www.almamlakatv.com/news/16298-%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A9
11 According to Al Mamlaka TV: https://www.almamlakatv.com/news/16298-%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A9
12 According to Al Mamlaka TV: https://www.almamlakatv.com/news/16298-%D8%A5%D8%B9%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%BA%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A9