“It was like a door that opened, a second chance at life”

Our partner organisation SIGI (Sisterhood Is Global Institute) provides legal support, case management services and mediation to women who are “administratively detained” in Jordan. To protect women who are believed to have “morally misbehaved” from being harmed by their family, women may be imprisoned in Jordan. Since the start of 2016, SIGI has helped negotiate the release of 36 such female prisoners.

Photo: Christopher Herwig
Photo: Christopher Herwig

In Jordan, many women are in “administrative detention.” An innocent name for what, in fact, comes down to imprisonment of women “for their own protection.”

Women in administrative detention may have suffered abuse at the hands of their family. They may have run away, not wishing to return home. Others may have had consensual sex before or outside of marriage. Some may have simply committed the crime of being with a man who was not a family member.

To protect these women from being harmed or even killed in revenge by their husbands and relatives, they are put in administrative detention. The practice is enshrined in the Crime Prevention Law of 1954. In some cases, women will spend years in prison: once a woman is detained, she can only be released when her family assures she will not be harmed.

Visits to victims and acting as mediators

Our partner organisation, the Sisterhood Is Global Institute (SIGI), is one of the actors in Jordan working with victims of administrative detention. The organisation advocates for access to justice for all women – especially those who can neither afford to hire a lawyer nor receive state-funded legal aid.

SIGI regularly visits victims of administrative detention. During these visits, they provide case management services and psychosocial support, and inform women about their legal rights. SIGI’s social workers and lawyers also act as mediators between the women, their families, governors and the prison authorities. Often, families are the ones who are reluctant to accept the woman’s release. SIGI then works on fostering dialogue and reconciliation.

Different ways out from prison

Ideally, a woman is able to return home safely in the end. When this is not possible, she may be relocated to another part of Jordan. In cases of extramarital sexual relations, women can sometimes marry the man they had sex with (who is also likely to be in detention). When he gives assurances of her protection, she can be released.

When asked how they feel about SIGI’s assistance, many formerly detained women express SIGI’s support as a door that opened: an offer at a second chance to lead a normal life – free from prison.