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Jordan on Monday marked International Women′s Day
08 March, 2010

AMMAN - Jordan on Monday marked International Women′s Day at the Palace of Justice to commemorate women′s progress in the judiciary and give impetus to women′s empowerment in the country.

HRH Princess Basma, who headed the celebration in her capacity as the president of the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and UNIFEM′s Goodwill Ambassador, expressed her sincerest gratitude for the support of the judiciary and decision makers, who are offering “political commitment” to protect women′s liberties and eradicate all forms of discrimination against them.

”The role of both the Higher Judicial Council (HJC) and the Ministry of Justice is extremely important and can lead to greater successes and higher positions for women in the judicial field. It is the judiciary that can guarantee a secure, fair and stable life that both men and women deserve,” the Princess said.

“By virtue of the higher political will of His Majesty King Abdullah in supporting the judicial authority in general and the woman′s role in the judiciary field in particular, we in Jordan, have reached where we are now,” she noted.

With support from Princess Basma, Jordan witnessed the appointment of the first female judge in 1996, a number that has since grown to 48 women judges.

Women′s activists say the numbers are encouraging, although female judges still only constitute 7 per cent of the total number of judges.

The Judicial Institute, which now accepts only students at the top of their class, has seen females outnumbering their male counterparts since the year 2000, far surpassing its 15 per cent female quota, according to a statement released by Princess Basma′s office.

“We have chosen this venue in particular to highlight the prominent role of Jordanian women in the judiciary… the president of the Higher Judicial Council [Ratib Al Wazani] is known for his commitment to eliminate all forms of legal discrimination against woman and I am confident that he will translate this commitment into reality on the ground,” Princess Basma said.

Wazani, for his part, announced that the HJC is planning to appoint a female general prosecutor, a move that women advocates have long been calling for.

He noted that there is overall agreement over the performance of female judges, who have earned their respect and become known for their “seriousness, efficiency and good manners”.

In a show of support, Justice Minister Ayman Odeh noted that “we can never arrive at a solution to social, political and economic problems without the participation of empowered women”.

HJC members and UN representatives also attended the event, which was organised by the JNCW and the Arab Women′s Legal Network (AWLN), in cooperation with the HJC, the Justice Ministry and UNIFEM.

Appeals Judge Ihsan Barakat, director of the AWLN who also holds the distinction of being the first female chief of court in Jordan and the region, highlighted the role of all women in the field who have achieved “quantitative and qualitative progress”.

“We, in the Jordanian judiciary have adapted to the new reality where women have become an integral part of the human resources that advance the mission of the judiciary,” she said.

Barakat also highlighted the Kingdom′s achievement in backing women′s participation in the public interest.

“Proudly, I can say that our fellow male judges have stood by our side rather than standing in the way… The way forward is to continue to judge human beings objectively based on appreciation for good conduct, accountability and the quality of performance without any discrimination on the basis of gender,” she added.

JNCW Secretary General Asma Khader also highlighted women′s potential.

“We are willing and ready to achieve more,” she said, highlighting JNCW′s achievements and efforts to provide women with a better life since its establishment in 1992.

In recognition of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the theme of this year′s International Women′s Day - observed worldwide on March 8 - is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”.

In her address at the event, Dina Assaf, director of Jordan′s UNIFEM office, noted that “another potential milestone in 2010 is a move to establish a new UN entity for gender equality and women′s empowerment”.

In a message to mark the international occasion, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged “the General Assembly to create this new entity without delay”, noting that “15 years ago… governments pledged to advance equality, development and peace for all women everywhere”.

“The landmark Beijing Declaration has had a deep and wide-ranging impact. It has guided policy making and inspired new national laws. It has sent a clear message to women and girls around the world that equality and opportunity are their inalienable rights,” the UN official pointed out.

Fifteen years later, Princess Basma who headed the Jordanian delegation in Beijing, voiced hope that “we in Jordan, men and women in the private and public sectors, and especially the JNCW, will pursue our efforts and honour our commitments to realise this year′s motto: “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, Progress for All”.