Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

Jordan LGBTI Resources

(See Below for Case Law, Evidence of Public Attitudes, NGOs that Assist or Advocate on LGBTI issues, and Country of Origin LGBTI Specialists)

 

Same-sex sexual conduct is decriminalised by the Penal code in Jordan since 1951, with equal age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual sex. Islamic Sharia law prohibits same-sex sexual conduct and relationships, but no fines or other penalties can be enforced under criminal law. Same-sex marriages, or more limited civil unions are not legally recognised in Jordan and it is not possible for same-sex couples to get married or adopt children. Moreover, the Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia emphasises that ‘no legislation exists to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Jordan’. The Jordanian government increasingly criminalises so-called honour killings and in 2009 a special court was established for prosecuting honour crimes.

 

CASE LAW

Safadi v. Gonzales (United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 9 August 2005)

This is a petition for judicial review of the decision rendered by the Immigration Court, which refused the applicant's refugee claim. The Immigration Court found that the Jordanian applicant lacks credibility as a gay man, as he initially obtained legal status in the U.S. based on a “sham” marriage to a woman (which later ended in divorce). The Appeals Court finds that the combination of the fraudulent marriage with discrepancies in witness testimonies support the adverse credibility findings of the Immigration Court, so the petition for judicial review of the immigration court’s decision is denied.

Essa v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2011 FC 1493, Canada: Federal Court, 20 December 2011

This is an application for judicial review of the decision rendered by the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, which refused the applicant’s refugee claim. The applicant is a twenty-five year old citizen of Jordan, seeking protection in Canada as he fears persecution as a gay man. The Board found that the applicant had not been truthful in his past immigration proceedings, questioned the credibility of the applicant’s testimony and pointed out numerous contradictions and inconsistencies in his refugee claim. While the Court appreciates that the Board is owed great deference in its findings of fact, they find that the comments made by the Board are based on stereotypes and thus unreasonable. Moreover, the Board erred in ignoring relevant evidence provided by witnesses corroborating the applicant’s testimony and also when it based its conclusions on the applicant’s credibility without regard to the testimony provided by the applicant’s witness and expert witness. Therefore the application for judicial review is granted.

 

PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND/OR STATE'S CAPACITY TO PROTECT

Although homosexuality is not illegal under the Penal Code, societal discrimination is widespread. According to a Pew poll from 2013, 97% of Jordanians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. The prohibition of same-sex sexual conduct and relationships under Sharia law can have consequences of stigmatisation and harassment towards this group. LGBTI persons are forced to leave Jordan as a consequence of negative public attitudes, police mistreatment and fear of their family harming them due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTI issues are largely considered taboo by the media, but when they are discussed, they are often discussed as part of a dangerous Western agenda. A document from Citizens for Justice in the Middle East evinces 'numerous reports of extrajudicial killings and torturing of LGBT people’. As this New York Times article emphasises, members of the LGBTI community fear becoming victims of violence and honour killings, demonstrating the incapacity and unwillingness of the state to protect its LGBTI citizens.

Additionally, the 2013 US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Jordan states that one citizen reported being beaten by his high school principal due to his sexual orientation. Many LGBTI citizens do not seek legal protection due to fear of discrimination from the police and courts. Furthermore, the report exposes that the government prevented members of the community from founding an LGBT NGO, foreclosing the possibility for addressing the current lack of available protection.

In 2014, Jordanian authorities arrested 10 “gays and lesbians” for holding a get-together in a reception hall in East Amman. The administrative governor of the area ordered the arrests in order to prevent a “disturbance of the peace.” That same year, an anonymous individual posted 100 pictures of Jordanian men from Grindr and Scruff, two LGBT dating apps, in a bid to expose their sexualities. The pictures were never removed, and led to the perpetration of acts of violence and ostracism toward the men who were outed. Though another major incident like this has yet to occur in Jordan, there are sometimes straight men who create profiles on Grindr or Scruff just to lure gay men out and then attack them. 

In 2015, the situation for LGBTI people became extremely tense when a group of about 40 people attended an event hosted by LGBT activists to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Then-U.S. ambassador Alice Wells attended, provoking harsh responses from Jordanian officials when the event was made public a few days later. The Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, issued a statement calling the meeting a form of “corruption and deviation” that threatened the security and stability of Jordan. Op-eds were published declaring the meeting a US and Zionist attempt to sabotage Arab and Islamic culture, and suggesting that gay people should be subject to hormone therapy. One Jordanian lawyer even tried to sue Wells for attending the meeting because of its unlicensed nature. After this incident, there was an uptick in violence toward the LGBT community in Jordan, some of which was documented in YouTube videos. 

More recently, negative attention has been drawn to members of the LGBTI community in Jordan by elected officials. During the summer of 2017, a Jordanian Member of Parliament (MP) directed the Jordanian Media Commission to open an inquiry into the legality of My.Kali, a Jordanian webzine that is inclusive of LGBTI toipcs. The website, though already blocked by the Jordanian Media Commission since 2007, was publicly declared blocked again, leading to growing online and offline tensions between the MP, who told a Western reporter that homosexuals were not welcome in Jordan, and Jordanian LGBTI activists. Tensions ended up culminating in threats to members of the LGBTI community in Jordan.

In the political frenzy that was provoked by the acts of the MP, the ministers of justice and interior wrote separate official letters declaring their intolerance of LGBT people and clarifying that the government would not defend the rights of LGBT Jordanians. According to the letter from the minister of interior, “Jordan has not and will never endorse any charter or protocol acknowledging homosexuals-known as the LGBT community-or granting them any rights as it is considered a deviation from Islamic Law and the Jordanian Constitution.” He continued by saying that the government would never allow LGBT organizations to meet, and would seek to prosecute anyone who sought to do so. Similarly, the minister of justice declared that “Jordan has not endorsed any international agreement, protocol or pact granting rights to those who are called sexual deviants” because doing so would go against Islamic law.

 

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)

Rainbow Street

https://www.rainbow-street.org

Get in touch: https://www.rainbow-street.org/contact-us/

Rainbow Street is dedicated to improving the lives of people living in the Arab World who experience discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression by connecting them to a network of support, providing them with necessary resources to find lasting stability, and assisting them in the realization of their long term goals. 

 

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN SPECIALISTS

Judge Bruce J. Einhorn (ret.)

Professor of Law, Pepperdine University
Director, Pepperdine Asylum and Refugee Law Clinic
(310)506-4416
Of Counsel, Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group
(310)570-4088
 

Judge Bruce J. Einhorn (ret.) was the primary draftsperson of the modern US law on asylum. He has worked to educate judges and conservative scholars on the maltreatment of gays and has done extensive research on Egypt, Saudi Arabia (e.g., gays and Shiites there), Syria, Yemen, and Jordan. In 2011 he lectured at Oxford University on the topic of anti-feminist actions from Islamic extremists, not all of whom are Muslim. Judge Einhorn is a member of the American Bar Association National Commission. He is Co-Chair of the ADL Latino-Jewish Roundtable of Greater Los Angeles, that covers issues such as immigration reform and the fight against nativism in the US.

 

Researched by: Tamara van Doorn and Emilia Truluck

Email address: tamaravdoorn105athotmail [dot] com and emilia [dot] truluckatgmail [dot] com

 

 

 

 

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