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Activists call for amending ‘discriminatory’ law on dowry repayments for divorced women

By JT - Jun 30,2020 - Last updated at Jun 30,2020

Sharia courts in Jordan recorded 885 new cases of ‘Khul’ (divorces initiated by the wife) during 2019 (AFP file photo)

AMMAN —  Sharia courts in Jordan recorded 885 new cases of “Khul” (divorces initiated by the wife) during 2019, an increase of 46.3 per cent compared to 2018, when 605 new cases were registered.

During 2019, 366 Khul cases were adjudicated, while 641 cases were dismissed, marking 63.6 per cent of the total cases registered, according to a statement issued by Solidarity Is Global Institute (SIGI) in Jordan.

The statement added that a total of 1,278 cases were received during the same year, according to the annual statistical report for 2019 issued by the Supreme Judicial Department.

SIGI cited paragraph (b) of Article 114 of the Personal Status Law No. 15 of 2019, which states: “If the wife, after the consummation of the marriage, files a lawsuit requesting to separate from her husband in which she states explicitly that that there is no way for marital life to continue between them, she must give up all her marital rights and return to him the dowry that she received.”

Although this text “achieves justice and contributes to solving many problems”, the condition that the wife return the dowry in full and in a single payment before the court’s annulment decision is a condition “only well-off women” can benefit from immediately, while underprivileged women “are unable to provide their full dowries”, SIGI noted.

Underprivileged women often also lack the financial resources to provide for their children’s livelihoods on top of their own and “remain hostage to material need”. Consequently, they are forced to drop such cases and continue within the framework of a marriage they do not wish to contine, according to the statement.

On the other hand, SIGI added, husbands are free to divorce their wives, and it is “often an abusive divorce” in which the husband is not required to pay the deferred dowry and the compensation awarded in one payment.

According to SIGI, this is “baseless discrimination”. The organisation called for giving women the same right to pay in instalments.

SIGI demanded in the statement that amendments be made to the text of Article 114 of the Jordanian Personal Status Law, which includes allowing women who request separation to repay prepaid dowries to their husbands in instalments.

The report emphasised that the total number of Khul cases recorded in Sharia courts in the governorates of the Kingdom during the years 2015 to 2019 amounted to 4,278, of which 1,462 cases were adjudicated and 1,612 cases were dropped.

SIGI noted that women “always tend to reconcile” in the cases submitted by them, especially if there is room for conciliation. However, they are also forced to drop cases if they are unable to deposit their dowries to the court fund as a condition for issuing separation rulings, as confirmed by the data issued by the Supreme Judicial Department.

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