Middle East Women Share Their Experience on Gender Equality

Published September 1st, 2019 - 08:34 GMT
MENA activists share what made the regional campaign for women’s nationality rights (Twitter)
MENA activists share what made the regional campaign for women’s nationality rights (Twitter)
Highlights
Lebanon is among the countries that do not allow female citizens to grant citizenship to their children or foreign-born spouses.

As Lebanon wrestles with its own nationality law, a group of women from throughout the Middle East and North Africa met in Beirut for a two-day conference beginning Thursday to share their experiences of pushing for gender equality in their countries’ citizenship laws.

Catherine Harrington, manager of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, which convened the gathering, noted that there were only 25 countries in the world that still denied women the same right as men to pass on their nationality to their children, of which around half were in the MENA region.

“But this is also the region that has seen the greatest number of reforms upholding women’s equal right to pass down nationality to their children in the years since the turn of the century, with reforms achieved in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, so that women have the same right as men to pass nationality to their children,” Harrington said.

Lebanon is among the countries that do not allow female citizens to grant citizenship to their children or foreign-born spouses.

The regional meeting provided a forum for women to share their success stories and frustrations. Among the knottier questions was that of citizenship for children in Iraq born to Iraqi women through either voluntary unions with or rape by Daesh (ISIS) fighters.

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Chief among the success stories was Algeria, which reformed its nationality law in 2005 and is currently the only country in the region to give men and women full equality with respect to granting nationality to their children and spouses.

Algerian lawyer and women’s rights activist Nadia Ait Zai told the gathering that it had taken a long and concerted campaign to arrive at “one of the best nationality laws in the Arab region,” which she said had “started to put an end to the patriarchal system.”

Lina Abu Habib, executive director of the Women’s Learning Partnership and one of the founders of the movement for nationality reform in Lebanon, described Algeria’s achievements as a “source of hope” for other countries, but expressed exasperation at the state of affairs in Lebanon.

Attempts to pass legislation that would allow women to pass on their citizenship have so far stalled, and after Parliament recently passed a measure that would have exempted the children of Lebanese mothers married to foreigners from having to apply for work permits, President Michel Aoun sent it back to legislators for consideration.

“This is not a healthy indicator at all of how we are seeing women’s rights in Lebanon and their situation as citizens,” Abu Habib said. “Today, we need the support of all of you and your voices to support our voices in this violation of the rights of women as citizens of Lebanon.”

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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