Fight in Jordan's parliament draws attention to women's constitutional rights

Fight began after discussions about adding the term 'female Jordanians' to the constitution

A fist-fight in Jordan's parliament on Tuesday puts the spotlight on women's rights in the kingdom, as well as the current code of conduct for members of parliament.

The assembly descended into chaos during a debate on controversial constitutional amendments.

Several deputies traded punches after a verbal row escalated when the assembly speaker called on an MP to “shut up and leave” the hall. A video of the incident went viral in Jordan and around the world.

The fight began when Tuesday’s session opened with a discussion on several proposed constitutional amendments, including the term “female Jordanians” being added to the second chapter of the Jordanian constitution.

One proposal to change the constitution suggested adding a paragraph to Article 6 of the document, calling to empower "women to play an active role in building society, ensuring equal opportunities on a just and fair basis, and to protect them from all forms of violence and discrimination.”

Article 6 in the constitution protects Jordanians from discrimination "on grounds of race, language or religion," but makes no mention of women.

Local reports indicated that the clashes occurred when House Speaker Abdul Karim Al Dughmi told MP Suleiman Abuyahya to “shut up” and another accused him of “pouring gasoline on the fire”.

Mr Al Dughmi then decided to adjourn the session for 30 minutes in light of the fist-fight between the deputies, but the brawl continued once the session was reconvened.

MPs' code of conduct

Laith Nasrawin, an associate professor of public law at the University of Jordan, said there was a clear weakness in the parliament’s code of conduct, which governs the behaviour of MPs.

“There is a complete absence of a clear and effective legislative system that governs the behaviour of deputies in the parliament’s internal system. What the deputies did on Tuesday constitutes a violation of the code of conduct for members of the parliament,” Mr Nasrawin told Jordanian Al Mamlaka TV.

Mr Nasrawin clarified that the current code of conduct for MPs is outdated because it refers to rules and regulations overseen by the system and conduct committee, which was abolished in 2019.

The brawl also drew a strong reaction from neighbouring countries, including Libya, where the parliament on Monday had to postpone a vote on how to handle the fall-out from delayed national elections after a chaotic session.

Zahra Langhi, a member of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, suggested that male representations in Arab parliaments should be capped to reduce chaotic behaviour among deputies.

“If the matter was left to me, I would stipulate that the proportion of males in Arab parliaments should not exceed 30 per cent. Only then will we begin to see actual reform of parliaments in our region,” Ms Langhi said on her official Facebook account.

Updated: December 29th 2021, 1:38 PM