A religious law court of appeals in Amman recently raised public furor in Jordan after ruling that woman not donning a veil will not be allowed to give testimony in court.
The story started when a couple sued each other in a lower court over a personal dispute. After hearing the judge's ruling, a local attorney decided to appeal the case to a higher court, and claimed that the woman's testimony was inadmissible because her hair was exposed and her face was uncovered. Sadly, the court agreed.
In explaining its call, the court said that the issue is regulated by Islamic law, where it is determined, by one school of thought, that the exposed hair of a woman undermines the level of justice she possesses. Meanwhile, media outlets, internet users, legal experts, human rights activists and women's rights organizations protested what called a gross violation of women's rights, personal freedom and the principle of equality.
Muslim woman veiled (Photo: Shutterstock)
Chairman of Jordanian Women's Union, Amna Al-Zoabi, told the official Jordanian news agency Petra that "the decision shocked us, and set a legal precedent that has unprecedented consequences and denigrates the competence of women who do not wear veils, and thus harms the women's status."
Zoabi further expressed her resentment over the fact that the court did not rely on the Jordanian constitution but rather on a religious ruling, and called on the court to retract its decision.
A source within the religious law court system told Petra that the Jordanian law allows the court to rule according to the four Islamic schools of thought. He admitted that not wearing a veil does not refute the woman's testimony in court, but explained that the court turned the lower court's decision in order to prevent the married couple's separation.
The requirement that women to appear in court in modest clothing is not limited to religious courts of appeals. Arab media published a story a few days ago in which a female Jordanian judge did not allow a female attorney to take part in a hearing because she was wearing denim jeans. The justice said that the lawyer should maintain appropriate garb in the courthouse.
Rejecting what they decried as religious coercion, the Jordanian Women's Union launched a national campaign against what it defined as "radical legal trends."
According to the Jordanian women, female lawyers in the kingdom fear that the public's silence in cases of women's rights violation, such as in the cases mentioned, would lead to female lawyers not being able to appear in court without a veil. The Jordanian lawyers association has not responded to the ruling on the matter of the attorney that wore jeans.