Jordanian society anti-gay despite decriminalizing same-sex relations

Amman: Although Jordan is one of the few Arab states to have decriminalized same-sex relations, anti-gay discrimination and harassment remain common in the conservative desert kingdom.

“Culturally speaking, this type of sexual behavior is not accepted in the very conservative society in Jordan,” Musa Shteiwi, director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan, told

Jordan is one of few countries in West Asia, along with Bahrain, Iraq and Israel, where same-sex relations are not criminalized. The Jordanian government also tolerates a few cafes in Amman that are widely considered to be gay friendly.

However, the country lacks anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBT community as same-sex couples are not officially recognized.

A Member of Parliament told Al-Monitor that if parliamentarians publicly defended gay rights “they would lose their audience and supporters” as other Muslim and Arab society considers this issue as anti-religious and immoral.

When Hassan Zeid told his family he was gay, his mother kicked him out of the house which not only meant he was homeless but also that he lost the means to pay for his education since the government was unwilling to take an active stance on this socially considered taboo, according to

Many young adults live with their parents due to the high cost of living and eviction from home means gay men often resort to desperate means. “We have even found some male prostitutes because they need money. If you were rejected from your house and have no education or association to protect you, where will you go?” Zeid asked.

Zeid said he hopes to establish an official gay organization to receive support from private donations but a Ministry of Social Development official explained that if the government authorized such an organization, it “would violate public morals and decency.”

The US State Department 2013 Human Rights report on Jordan confirmed that many LGBT individuals face discrimination in housing, education and employment.

“In many cases, transgender persons stop themselves from filing suit out of the fear of being treated unjustly and harassed for the way they look,” LGBT activist Maidan al-Jazerah told Al-Monitor.

The law also does not stop gays and lesbians from occasional arrest and harassment. In February, police in Amman arrested 10 gay men for having a party to get to know each which a security official said was done “to prevent a disturbance of the peace.”

Media also reflects the conservative nature of Jordanian society when it uses the derogatory term “shath” that means “deviant” to describe LGBT members.

Although since1951 non-commercial and consensual same-sex relations among those above 16 years is legal, same-sex relations are still viewed as a taboo by large sections of the society.

Source – Gay Asia News