The condemning of homosexual behavior by both the Jordanian government and the Jordanian society.
LGBTQ+ persons tend to be continuously marginalized in the Jordanian community, both by societal norms and governmental pressure.
The spectrum of gender is nonexistent in the Jordanian mindset. To the Jordanian masses, gender identity, expression, and sexual orientation are all indifferent. There is definitely a lack of education regarding the topic of gender.
As I tend to grow older in this community, I recognize more the faults of my people. I understand more and more that Jordanians do not understand how specific concepts such as gender can change over time, and that must be changed.
My project aims to raise awareness and provoke realization to the deep-rooted ignorance in the Jordanian society in regards to homosexuality and gender. I also hope to spark a change in the mindset present in the society, which will be conducted through the Jordanian public voice.
A Recent Incident:
Mashrou’ Leila is a Lebanese Indie-Rock band that is known to be controversial for their lyrics and advocacy on social issues. They are the first Arabic-speaking rock band to discuss gay rights in the Middle East
An album release concert for the band, “Mashrou’ Leila” was banned in Jordan. Even though, they have performed in the historical locations 3 times previously. The band was prevented from performing because the concert “contradicted the integrity of the location”.
— Mashrou' Leila (@mashrou3leila) June 14, 2017
After this incident, the Jordanian public was slipt; some in support for the band, others in rejoicing that the ban was applied.
An article from the National Public Radio website discussed the ban on the band and mentioned how, “the show was cancelled by the government — and the band says they have been told they can never perform again in the country, because of the group’s politics, religious beliefs and “endorsement of gender equality and sexual freedom”.”
The Jordanian Minister of Tourism had backed these claims saying that the ban was caused by the Jordanian public denouncing Mashrou’ Leila as defiant to the common religious and cultural beliefs.
Where does Jordan actually stand?
For a long while, Jordan was considered to be the most progressive in the Middle East due to its stance on homosexuality, since the criminalization of same-sex relations was eliminated from its Penal Code in 1951.
Jordan is the only Muslim Arab country in the Middle East whose law does not criminalize homosexuality. However, the Jordanian society is conservative and can be defined as a non-homosexual society. There have been many articles in the Jordanian Constitution, like Article 6 in Chapter 1, that push for equal treatment of all citizens and condemns discrimination between Jordanians based on religion, language, or race. Although, all the Constitution and all its articles fail to condemn discrimination based on sexual identity or sexual orientation. It was found in an HRC report that 97% of Jordanians in the Kingdom still reject homosexuality.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordan’s Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has made a statement on the issue, pushing for the disallowing of discrimination against LGBT people.
He stated in an event during the General Assembly’s high-level session that he understands how this might be a difficult topic around the world, but action must be taken.
“ We ask all governments to allow individuals to love whom they choose, to outlaw discrimination, tackle hate crimes and the bullying so frequent in schools, and to protect intersex children from harm – including by banning medically unnecessary surgery on intersex infants. The onus has to be on governments to protect and respect rights – and explain to the public why these measures are needed,” he declaimed.
I conducted an interview with one of the editors of MyKali Magazine via email correspondences. I chose to contact the magazine as it might be one of the key aspects of the Arab take on homosexuality. As it self-describes, MyKali is an “online social-conceptual Middle East and North Africa webzine, covers issues of LGBT+, sexuality, arts, music, the underground, the alternative, and gender.” The interviewee here requested that he stay anonymous and therefore he will remain as “MyKali editor”. Below are my questions to him and his answers respectively:
1- To what extent is Jordan an overall safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community?“Jordan is one of the only countries in the region that doesn’t criminalize being LGBT+ (along with Iraq and Egypt, however, they use other laws in their own countries’ context to arrest, kill…etc.). However, that doesn’t mean being “visibly” or “noticeably” LGBT+ isn’t a major social stigma; which could lead to being ostracized from your community and home, subjected to physical and emotional bullying in the street, workplace, schools… The debate about what safe space means or requires varies from individual to other. Being “comfortable” or “safe” as an LGBT+ person in Jordan comes from a privileged place and is measured on things like, (where you live, your social class, your financial status, your use private transportation or public, hetero-passing, themore heteronormative you are the easier it is).There are of course exceptions for individual cases of being accepted in their community, but these are exceptions and not the overall situation. Also, we must take into consideration, the more heteronormative you are or conforming to our society, the more accepted you are or safe it is for you to exist.As for women; women, in general, are objectified and sexualized, or are also considered property that needs to be protected and concealed. Therefore, many women in our societies are encouraged to hide behind doors, lock rooms, and remain more private, which could offer a safe space to them.Yet, aside from all of that, homosexual couples and individuals have it easier when it comes to living alone or renting apartments and houses than heterosexual couples. As heterosexual couples often have to prove their married or restricted/limited from inviting the opposite sex to their accommodation, homosexual couples have many camouflages when it comes to this aspect, which could be considered a safe space. “
2- How do you think that the Jordanian policies (legally) discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community?
3- How do you feel that the societal beliefs affect the way people deal with homosexuality in Jordan and discriminate against them socially?“This is a multi-layered answer:First of all, social beliefs, i.e. customs and traditions, play a huge role in who people deal with homosexuality. In some communities, if not most, homosexuality is not a substantial “life choice” and only revolve around sexuality. There are expectations from our community and society towards us, roles that we have to fulfill, like marriage and having children. Homosexuality simply doesn’t exist within this context, therefore whoever “chose” to deteriorate from this norm will be discriminated against because they refuse to follow customs and traditions and choose to challenge the norm.
Secondly, when it comes to men, our (Jordanian) society, mostly, views homosexuality when it comes to playing a passive role. Which means you “choose” to play the woman’s role in the courtship of homosexuality, which is looked down upon. While men who play active roles are not “real homosexuals” cause they are practicing being “men” or “manhood” which their “natural state”.Our societies are deeply rooted in patriarchy, which means being a woman or feminine in our society is looked-down-upon because they view it that you’re basically playing a passive role. While women who adopt “man values” or masculine attitude, gain more respect cause this person is not conforming to patriarchy. There is an article published in My.Kali’s identity issue called, “Mach men only: No space for Femininity in Jordan’s LGBT+ community” might help you understand a bit more or add another dimension to the conversation.
For women, there’s often that debate of who have it easier gay men or gay women… women, in general, are objectified and sexualized (as stated previously). So women are encouraged to hide behind doors, lock rooms, and remain more private, which could offer a safe space to them. Also, for women, it’s different, as anything that has to do with sexuality is limited, controlled and should be repressed. It’s also connected to honor, which could mean endangering the individual and limiting them. This counteracts or solves with the point mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph. Gay women face what all women in our societies face: forced and arranged marriages, carrying the family’s honor on their shoulder, and playing a passive role in our societies. In some cases, when their orientation is exposed, they could face “corrective rape”; which is when an individual raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to turn the person heterosexual or to enforce conformity with gender stereotypes. “
Here is a Google Form that I sent to about 60 Jordanians, of various genders and ages. Some were family members, some were Jordanian students and others were neighbors. The survey was aimed to answer the question of, “Are members of the LGBTQ+ community accepted in Jordan?”. I chose to send this to all these people in my community to showcase the public opinion of Jordanians as a whole body.
Below are the results of the most summative question on this form.
One thing that must be made clear on my behalf is that Jordanians do not bash nor commit acts of violence against the LGBT+ community normally. The question at hand is a question of belief and ethical philosophy, and is not to be confused with tangible application. As I worked on this project and read more and more about the topic, I realized that I might be putting my own people under strict scrutiny. Later, I found that this might be the only way for me to provoke the change I want to see in my community. We must make our community a safer place for everyone, disregarding their sexuality or gender identity.
Reading articles like the MyKali article about homosexual relationships in the Middle East made me even more determined to raise awareness about the situation. The editor that I interviewed wrote, “we’ve learned to adapt to our societies and we’ve learned how to function in the system.” This quotation helped me contextualize the mass of the indifference of the society to these individual’s struggles and the mass of change that must happen when it comes to the firsthand experiences of LGBTQ+ people in our community.
My research has led me to think of how the prevailing homophobia in areas such as Jordan can make it especially hard for such identities to even exist. Also, many claim that it is Islam that pushes for the discrimination against homosexual people. But in fact, “There is a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and opinions about homosexuality.There is far less acceptance of homosexuality in countries where -any- religion is central to people’s lives – measured by whether they consider religion to be very important, whether they believe it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral, and whether they pray at least once a day,” The Global Divide.
Another factor that must be taken into consideration when discussing views on homosexuality, is the instability of nations politically, socially, and economically; even if the relationship is not as evident. Another finding of my research is that the LGBT community is only prone to an increase in discrimination due to the current rising instability of the nation. As Mona Alami spoke of how societal standards in Jordan go hand in hand with the discrimination in Jordanian policies in her article. I have also received remarks stating that Jordan, and the Arab world generally, has a long way of modernization to go; implying lack of progression and backwardness. I would like to make mention of a historical phenomenon that lead the Middle East to become the way it is now. The colonization of the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) had set the countries back in terms of both modernization and industrialization. This research paper discusses ‘Homosexuality as a cultural battleground in the Middle East’ through the postcolonial lens.
In the legal scope of things, I have made the argument above that Jordan does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality in its penal code anymore. But Jordan is guilty of having “vaguely defined criminal acts so as to have homosexual interactions fall within their scope,” Ferchichi. This means that if a case of homosexual conduct is taken to court, the judge could rule and back his ruling with articles that homosexual conduct may fall into, but not mention explicitly. Not to mention, that Jordan fails to include sexuality in its articles of justice and equality between all of its citizens.
Call for Action:
As the youth of today’s world, we must alter and reform the inequalities we see every day. We must have the courage to speak and scrutinize with no one to constrain us. In this case, I have attempted to help people recognize the problem present, but what I strongly hope is that respective action is taken to reconstruct the current situation. I also note with deep concern that none of the factors that led to the overlaying homophobia in the Jordanian community actually justify it. Therefore, I strongly urge the youth in Jordan to start with self-awareness and understanding of the social construct of gender. I then call for the widespread campaigns of normalization of the concept of homosexuality as a whole; through schools, the arts, or governmental demands. We must take our knowledge and utilize it to modify the ill-mindsets in our society.
- Alami, Mona. “Jordan’s LGBT Community .” IPS, ipsnews.net/2014/08/jordans-lgbt-community-fears-greater-intolerance/
- “Constitution.” مجلس الأمة, www.parliament.jo/en/node/150#ch1.
- Dalacoura, Katerina (2014) Homosexuality as cultural battleground in the Middle East: culture and postcolonial international theory. Third World Quarterly, 35 (7). pp. 1290-1306. ISSN 0143- 6597 http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/56822/
- “How Can LGBTQ Relationships Work in the Middle East?” Medium, My.Kali Magazine, 12 Feb. 2017, https://medium.com/my-kali-magazine/how-can-lgbtq-relationships-work-in-the-middle-east-7812e842de1d
- “Macho Men Only: No Space For Femininity In Jordan’s LGBT+ Community.” My Kali, 15 Jan. 2018, storage.googleapis.com/qurium/mykalimag.com/en-2018-01-11-macho-men-only-%E2%80%8Bno-space-for-femininity-in-jordans-lgbt-community.html
- “The Global Divide on Homosexuality.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 4 June 2013, pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/
- The Penal Code for the Year 1960, http://www.ahtnc.org.jo/sites/default/files/penal_code.pdf
- W., (2011), Law and Homosexuality: Survey and Analysis of Legislation Across the Arab World. Working Paper prepared for the Middle East and North Africa Consultation of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, 27-29 July 2011. http://bibliobase.sermais.pt:8008/BiblioNET/upload/PDF/0576.pdf