Jordan addresses sexual harassment in legal amendment

Definition of harassment and legal recourse for victims remain vague despite the new change

Members of parliament attend a parliament session ​in Amman, Jordan. Reuters
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Jordan has introduced fines to curb sexual harassment in the workplace, in a legal amendment that breaks taboos about openly mentioning the issue while keeping its definition vague.

State TV said parliament passed the amendment on Sunday, holding "managers or their representatives" responsible for the harassment if it was proven that "any form of sexual assault or sexual harassment was practised on employees".

"The business owners or manager of the institution or whomever represents them will be punished with a fine," the amendment said, placing the penalty at $2,800 to $7,000.

All significant powers in Jordan are with King Abdullah, who has ruled since inheriting power in 1999, but the pro-government parliament has some leeway when it comes to social issues.

Official media said it was the first time that Jordanian legislation has specifically referred to sexual harassment. The Penal Code refers to indecency and immoral conduct in public spaces as crimes but does not specify what constitutes these crimes. Even a domestic violence law passed in 2017 does not mention sexual violence.

Reem Aslan, gender specialist at the International Labour Organisation, says that while the new amendment is positive, Jordan has yet to conform to the organisation's standards on countering sexual harassment.

This includes mandating work policies defining sexual harassment, setting up complaint mechanisms within an organisation and providing clear legal avenues for the victims.

"The amendment could have been better formulated to conform to the standards," Ms Aslan said.

Updated: March 07, 2023, 11:05 AM