Claiming Equal Citizenship

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Women’s right to equal citizenship is guaranteed by the majority of Arab constitutions, as well as by international law. Yet across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the Gulf, women are denied their right to nationality – a crucial component of citizenship.

In almost every country in MENA and Gulf regions, women who marry men of other nationalities cannot confer their original nationality to their husbands or children. Only fathers, not mothers, can confer their nationality to their children.

Discriminatory laws denying women equal nationality rights undermine women’s status as equal citizens in their home countries. Such laws send the message that women do not enjoy a direct relationship with the state, but must access their citizenship rights through mediation of a male family member, such as a father or a husband. Until women in the MENA and Gulf regions are recognized as full nationals and citizens, they cannot participate fully in public life, nor claim the other rights to which they are entitled as equal members of their societies.

The denial of women’s nationality rights also created real suffering for dual nationality families living in the woman’s home country. Children and spouses are treated as foreigners and must obtain costly residence permits. Children are often excluded from social services such as social security, healthcare and subsidized or free access to education. In many countries, spouses and children have limited employment opportunities and are unable to own property. In terms of psychological impact, many women feel isolated and guilty because they feel responsible for the difficulties faced by their families, while children suffer from low self-esteem because of their second-class status.

Goals of the Campaign

The Women’s Learning Partnership joins with regional partners in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf to call for:

  • Legal reform enabling women to confer their nationality to their husbands and children without condition
  • Full implementation of reformed nationality laws and equal access to these laws for all women
  • Recognition of women as equal citizens in all areas of life
Alerts & Updates
December 14, 2011 | Claiming Equal Citizenship, Claiming Equal Citizenship, Human Rights, Lebanon, Middle East, political participation
In its meeting of 12 December 2011, the current Cabinet endorsed a draft law to reinstate Lebanese nationality to emigrants of Lebanese descent.  However, the draft law was endorsed after “minor modifications” according to the current Minister of Interior, Brigadier Marwan Charbel.  The “minor modification” was the specification that Lebanese descent shall be limited to fathers and grandfathers only - Not mothers or grandmothers.  The “minor modification” is yet again further proof of Lebanon’s persistent patriarchal mindset which clearly considers citizenship to be a male attribute.WLP would like to share the following statement on behalf of the Arab Women's Right to Nationality Campaign in Lebanon, part of WLP's regional Claiming Equal Citizenship campaign. 
October 27, 2011 | Claiming Equal Citizenship, Constitution, constitutional reform, Family Law Reform, Jordan, Jordan, Leading to Action, Middle East, Political Participation
In response to demonstrations and protests taking place in Jordan beginning in January 2011, King Abdullah initiated a reform process this past spring focused on political and economic reform. As part of this process the King established a Royal Commission to review the Constitution and make recommendations for amendments.
July 1, 2011 | Africa, Claiming Equal Citizenship, constitutional reform, Morocco, Morocco, Rights & Reservations: Realizing CEDAW, Political Participation
WLP MOROCCO/ADFM PRESS RELEASE: The Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM), as an autonomous feminist association, having considered the various provisions of the draft constitution for fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly those relating to women's human rights, considers that: • This project comes at a time of accelerated change in the countries of the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East, and reflects the current state of our society and its political and social actors. It broadly reflects the aspirations of Moroccans to a more dignified life;
S:SSO to Sakai