BEIRUT: Ahead of U.N. International Human Rights Day Monday, nationality campaigners held a sit-in Sunday in Downtown Beirut to demand equal citizenship rights with men.
Currently, Lebanese women are not entitled to pass their nationality on to their children, meaning that if they marry a foreigner, their children cannot gain Lebanese citizenship, making it difficult for them to gain access to state benefits, such as health care and education.
The group, “My Nationality is a Right for my Children and my Family” held Sunday’s sit-in. Campaigners handed Prime Minister Najib Mikati a draft law on the nationality issue in July 2011, but have yet to receive a response, and are continuing to lobby parliamentarians for their support for reform.
Speaking Sunday, the organizer of the sit-in, Azza al-Horr Mroue, said that while the citizens of the country have believed in basic human rights since independence in 1943, and despite the fact women have worked alongside men in the fields of politics, economics, education, health and culture, and have played a leading role in resistance and liberation, “equality in national rights hasn’t been reached yet.”
“Discrimination has haunted women in law, as well as in the practices of the patriarchal society,” she added.
Despite having signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996, successive Lebanese governments have continued to express reservations on the equal nationality clause, with the Palestinian settlement issue often cited as a key concern.
“We ask all parliamentary blocs and political factions: Are we living in a country which respects its citizens? Or are we living in a country that puts the interests of political groups and sects above the rights of citizenship?,” Horr Mroue asked.
She added that, “this right has been stalled and bound to other issues that have nothing to do with the suffering of the Lebanese mother, her children and her family in a nation which rejects them and refuses to discuss their national rights and offers all sorts of justifications for the decision to deprive Lebanese women of their right to pass on their nationality to their children.”
Many nationality campaigners were further enraged when the Cabinet last year passed a draft law allowing the descendants of Lebanese fathers or grandfathers to apply for citizenship, even if they themselves have never lived in the country.
Early in 2012, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi joined the nationality debate, saying that granting women equal citizenship rights would be a dangerous step.
“We demand full citizenship rights for the Lebanese women and the amendment of the first article in the 1925 citizenship law, which only grants the Lebanese father the right to pass on his citizenship to his children, so that Lebanese mothers can also benefit from this right,” Horr Mroue said Sunday.
Estimates suggest there are over 20,000 Lebanese women married to non-Lebanese men, whose children, Horr Mroue said, are suffering on a daily basis from “flagrant and shameful” discrimination.