The Islamic Action Front (IAF) suggests that international human rights conventions in general, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in particular, should have been nationally debated and reviewed in Parliament before being ratified.
This is a valid submission, and a procedure undertaken worldwide.
Important international instruments of far-reaching impact must not be rushed into ratification; shortcut procedures, such as bypassing Parliament proceedings and national debates, should not be taken.
In that, the IAF is right. It is wrong, however, to seeks to turn the clock back by proposing that Jordan withdraw from the recently ratified CEDAW simply because the government withdrew its reservation to paragraph 4 of Article 15 of the convention, thus allowing women free movement.
The Islamic bloc contends that affording women freedom of mobility and freedom to choose their place of residence would lead to a breakdown of family ties, disrupt the fabric of the society and, as such, it violates Islamic principles governing family affairs.
This charge is devoid of real substance when viewed in the real context.
No country that respects, observes and applies this right suffered from a breakdown in family ties, because what determines those and safeguards the family structure and unit is not the right to free movement.
In real life, wives, daughters and sisters in the country do not go about choosing their place of abode; neither do they travel in isolation of the established traditions and cultural mores, based on Islam.
One fails to see how women will disrupt their family ties simply because a piece of legislation gives them the theoretical, or rather hypothetical, right to move about whichever way they wish.
Moreover, economic constraints, if not traditional family values, will have a big bearing on the theoretical exercise of any such right.
If the IAF succeeds in convincing the government to backtrack on its commitments under CEDAW, that will also necessarily lead to the revocation of treaty obligations under several other international conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, since human rights are interlinked and indivisible.
The Muslim bloc is therefore called upon to consider this issue in its proper context and not in its abstract form. Jordanian family ties can never be negatively affected by a paragraph in a CEDAW provision.
8 April 2009
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