Segregation in Jordan

Some countries like India and Mexico started the service of “women-only” buses to solve the problem of sexual harassment from male passengers. I think this is a good idea especially in crowded cities were passengers in public transportations are crushed together while standing. In such cases men and women may be too close and it becomes inevitable for their bodies not to rub against each others. And the worst could happen.

Some people living in ِNorth America or Europe may think this is ridiculous. But we should never judge a solution unless we experience the problem.

Jordan is not as crowded as India and Mexico hence we don’t have such problem in the public transportations. But we still have cases of sexual harassments in the streets. The worst is of course when there is touching but the common one is verbal. To solve verbal abuse restaurants in Jordan have two sections; one ‘for families only*’ and another for single men.

Most restaurants in Jordan have a section that is limited to families only. The purpose of such segregation is to eliminate the looks and the bad mouthing from single men sitting near by. This segregation is not religious gender segregation but a culture thing.

I don’t like such thing because it can be very stupid. Here are a few examples why “For Families Only” is a bad idea:

Story #1:

I entered a coffee shop in Irbid called “Friends”. There was no sign that says “For Families only” or “Wait to be seated.” So, I pulled my laptop from my bag and put it on the table while three staffs were looking at me. When I was ready to sit, one of the staff came to me and told me this section is “for families only” and he pointed to a coffee table near the entrance that I can sit on. I didn’t care much because I understand the culture but when I was ready to sit on the other table I found it is very close to the entrance door and whenever the door opens a cold drift is going to hit my face so I decided to change the coffee shop.

Now, the section that is according to the staff is dedicated to families only was occupied with girls. My shock was when I found that all girls there were smoking hookah not because they were smoking but because it was 11 in the morning. Who smokes hookah in the morning?

I am 39 years old who has 15 years of experience teaching college students yet the coffee shop denied to serve me some respect in favor of college students who smoke hookah at 11 am.

Story #2:

My cousin (he is my age) traveled from Irbid to Amman (90 km) to return an item his wife bought from a mall in Amman. The security guard at the door refused to let him in because that day the mall is limited to families only. My cousin tried to explain to the security that he traveled 90 km just to return this item but his pledge met only with denial. My cousin is an optometrist and a father of  two daughters.

Story #3:

Three 30 something men (two optometrists and one medical doctor) and their 45 year-old Jordanian friend who is visiting Jordan from Italy for the first time after 12 years decided to go to the Dead Sea only to find that they were denied entrance to one of the beaches because entry is for families only. Traveling 173.8 km from Irbid, being 30 something and married, and having a 40 something tourist from Italy with them were not enough reasons for these poor men to enjoy seeing the Dead Sea beach.

This shows how hard it is for single men in Jordan to be treated with respect. Regardless of age or status, men are treated with no dignity or respect if they are not accompanied with a female. Maybe it is time for a business man in Jordan to invest in opening an escort sevice**. How else would a single man be treated with respect in malls and restaurants?

*’For Families only’ sign means a man or men not accompanied by a female regardless of her age are not allowed in.
** I am being sarcastic of course I don’t agree with such line of service.


10 thoughts on “Segregation in Jordan

  1. What can I/we say, hmmmmmm welcome to Jordan! 🙂 + 😦

    I agree that the 3 stories (and many more) r dreadful -to say the very much least- , even though it can be rationalized * (in lack of a better word) but still, there r ways/remedies for such situations.

    * some ppl r rude and make more than remarks if they have half a chance even! But this does not justify the treatment single men get.
    I never knew Mexico was considered crowded!

    1. The idea is that we shouldn’t assume the worst of people before we know them. Not allowing a man to enter a place because we assume he is going to misbehave is not the solution. Especially, if this man is 30 or 40 something and not a 16 year-old-boy.

  2. Some people living in ِNorth America or Europe may think this is ridiculous. But we should never judge a solution unless we experience the problem.

    I’ve never been anywhere where they have gender segregated facilities (barring the local mosque), so anything I say is just my opinion based off of what I’ve heard of other peoples’ encounters.

    While I don’t find the idea ‘ridiculous’, I do question the idea that gender segregation is the solution to the problem of women being harassed. Gender segregation is just treating a symptom and not the disease, which is that (where ever these things happen) the men are not being raised to respect women. If they were, these things wouldn’t happen with such frequency that we have to create separate buses/beaches/seating areas to keep women safe. And I don’t think that such measures do keep women safe in the long run.

    In the scenarios you mentioned, you seem to have this issue with the men involved being older, respectable men who are treated like teenagers. The problem, to my thinking, is that the men who harass women *aren’t* all teenagers. Much of the time they’re grown men who should absolutely have their impulses and their hormones under control. In the office where I work we used to have one male manager who was a serial sexual harasser and he was in his 40s/50s and to all outside eyes a respectable citizen. Sexual harassment, I believe, is much like rape. It’s not about sex, it’s about power. And it has nothing to do with the age, education or the social position of the perpetrator. So I can completely understand the ‘no exceptions’ stance that you describe, as inconvenient as it was for your cousin and friends.

    I don’t think though that we should treat every man as a potential harasser/rapist either. That’s actually incredibly insulting to men, the vast majority of whom would never think of doing such things. I don’t really have an answer, of course, no solution to the problem that I’ve ever seen seems to actually solve the problem or work efficiently for every member of society.

    1. You have a very good point that usually sexual harassers are in their 40s or 50s. I do agree with you about this.
      Segregation may not be based on gender. Some malls in USA ban teenagers from entering without being accompanied by an adult. The reason is because they are anticipating trouble and hence the mall administration want to be on the safe side. It is not fair to the good behaving teenagers but maybe such regulation is for their sake as well.
      Gender segregation is a very complicated subject. I say that because there is a debate among not only Muslim but non-Muslim educators as well whether gender segregation in school affects children’s performance or not. In a study done in UK, boys in only boys’ school performed better than boys in mixed gender school. But as with any study this means nothing unless you want to believe it.
      In Arab countries, public schools are gender segregated whereas private schools are mixed. In UK and USA public schools are mixed whereas some private schools are gender segregated. Don’t you think this is an interesting thing?
      Students in American universities live in mixed gender dorms whereas students with higher income live in fraternities (boys only houses) and sororities (girls only houses). Is this a right observation?
      Okay, I know I don’t want to solve the world’s problems but I know I should get married ASAP to solve one man’s problem 🙂

      1. You’re right about segregation not always being by gender. The town I grew up and now work is largely (though that is changing) full of retirees. They tried several years ago to get children under a certain age (I think it was 19) banned from our local mall during certain hours. The movement failed because the store owners in the mall were against it. After all, the retirees mostly use the mall as a walking track (they circle around and around in the air conditioning for their daily exercise) and aren’t the ones who provide most of their business.

        I’ve seen those studies, regarding children in segregated classes/schools doing better than those in mixed classes. I’m not really sure where I stand on the issue. I’ve attended both public and private school here in the US. The public school wasn’t segregated at all, of course, and the private school only segregated us for gym but even then we would have gym events where the genders mixed. I know from teaching Sunday School at my church for a while that I sincerely wished that we could have separate classes for the girls and the boys because they seemed to egg each other on in ways that they didn’t when there were only girls in the class or only boys (sometimes it happened where all the boys didn’t show up or vice versa).

        Students in American universities live in mixed gender dorms whereas students with higher income live in fraternities (boys only houses) and sororities (girls only houses). Is this a right observation?

        I’ve never lived in a dorm so I’m not the best person to answer this one! 🙂 I believe that there are still some single gender dorms (all girls or all boys), mostly on religious college campuses, but that mixed gender is more likely on ‘secular’ campuses. Fraternities and sororities are gender segregated and, from what I understand, expensive to join, so yes, you’re correct.

        Getting married just so you can get the nicer seats in a coffee house? LOL. 😉

        1. “I’m not really sure where I stand on the issue.”
          Me too. But I think I lean more to mixed classes, if they are respecting the Islamic culture.

          “Getting married just so you can get the nicer seats in a coffee house? LOL. ”
          Being single in Jordan is not easy 🙂

  3. Very interesting post and comments! I am really sorry you and others you mentioned were not able to do things because of men-without-a-woman-in-tow segregation. I dislike it when everyone has to suffer for the actions of a few.

  4. Salam,
    Speaking from a woman’s point of view, I am grateful for the family sections in restaurants and other establishments in Jordan. I think the problem is when people are not flexible, such as in Story #2. I believe an exception should have been made in this case. When you are married, you may eventually feel differently about the family section.

    1. anon, thanks for sharing your opinion. Yesterday, I went with my family to a mall in Irbid. My father was thankful that the elevator was monitored by camera. He said recently guys are becoming very nasty and offensive.
      Still, in my opinion a mall or a restaurant should not be exclusive to families rather there should be a law that harshly punishes men who misbehave so other guys think twice before they try to do anything bad.

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