Jordanian lawmakers approved on Sunday a largely symbolic amendment to the kingdom's constitution on women's rights, less than a week after the parliament's debate on the vote turned into a massive brawl.
Ninety-four out of 130 members of the lower house voted in favor of changing the title of the second chapter of Jordan's constitution to “The Rights and Duties of Jordanian Men and Women” instead of simply “of Jordanians,” which in Arabic would come in the default masculine form.
On Tuesday, several deputies traded blows after a verbal row escalated when the assembly speaker called on a deputy to leave. Live footage on state media showed several lawmakers punching each other while one deputy fell to the ground as others shouted in chaotic scenes that lasted a few minutes.
No one was injured in the punch-up that began over the refusal of a member to apologize over unwarranted remarks aimed at a colleague, who sought to defend the amendment by arguing it offers nothing beyond “linguistic equality.”
“There was a verbal shouting match that turned into fist fighting by several deputies. The behavior is unacceptable to our people and harms our country's reputation,” said Khalil Atiyeh, a member of parliament who witnessed the session.
The current text of the constitution makes a single direct reference to women's rights, in Article 23 of the same chapter, which seeks to “establish special conditions for the work of women and juveniles.”
Musa Maaytah, the minister of parliamentary affairs, was quoted by Jordanian state news agency Petra as saying that adding “Jordanian Women” to the title came to show “honor and respect for women.” In other media outlets, the minister was quoted effectively admitting to lawmakers the amendment has no legal effect.
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He also stressed that any concerns over the amendment's effect on family law were “unjustified,” as issues like marriage and divorce or inheritance are handled exclusively by the religious court system.
The amendment to the chapter's title, according to Petra, “is part of a package sent by the government to the legislature based on the recommendations of a royal committee tasked with providing insights to modernize political life and develop legislation in the kingdom.” Some lawmakers accused the government of “bowing down to pressure from donor institutions” to pass it.
Lawmakers also voted to include new language on “empowering young people and women” that stipulates the state guarantee women “play an active role in building society in a way that … protects them from all forms of violence and discrimination.”
A third amendment approved by the lower house is meant to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
Reuters contributed to this report.