Libya granted women new constitutional rights - then took them away again!

Published May 1st, 2017 - 10:15 GMT
A Libyan woman (Wikimedia Commons)
A Libyan woman (Wikimedia Commons)

by Rosie Alfatlawi

Libyan women’s rights campaigners have angrily taken to Twitter after the committee responsible for their country’s new constitution backtracked on a major issue.

While a previous draft of Libya’s long-awaited constitution had allowed women to pass on their nationality to their children, the latest version has removed that provision, sparking outrage online.

However, activists are refusing to let the controversial change go unnoticed. Project Silphium, which aims to increase female participation and visibility, last week launched the hashtag “I (too) am Libyan”  in order to demand citizenship for women on an equal basis to their male counterparts.

While not an issue when both parents are Libyan, the law as it stands impacts upon Libyan women married to foreign men, whose children cannot adopt their mother’s nationality.

Many also feel the rule undermines women’s rights as citizens and humans.

A woman is merely a commodity, a second-class citizen, and a man has the right to guardianship over her in our conservative society.

I am a human, that is to say a person, not part of the “wealth of the nation”.

Libyan women are not alone in their struggle. Across the Arab world, women have for many years fought for the right to pass on their nationality to their offspring. In Lebanon and Jordan, generations of mothers have come up against patrilineal nationality laws which have forced countless children into statelessness.

Responding to the criticism, the President of Libya’s Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) has insisted in a series of tweets that the constitution does enshrine women’s rights. Monam Alshareef claims that the constitution guarantees against gender-based discrimination, including in political, social and private spheres.

The committee will vote on the most recent draft constitution on May 7.


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