Quebec’s values test: Why not focus on everyday gender equality?

Another good and thoughtful column by Sheema Khan.

One point of interest is her call for the long-promised revision of the citizenship study guide to include everyday examples of what gender equality means, not the criminal ones cited in the current guide.

As the government did not manage to get its revision published during its first mandate, it should consider this suggestion if not already included in the revision:

Galloping from one controversial social policy to another, the government of Quebec recently unveiled its “Values Test” for prospective immigrants. Derided by some, the test requires newcomers to the province to be aware of a few “key” values. French is the official language of la belle province. Polygamy is illegal, whereas marriage between two individuals is not. Men and women are equal before the law. There’s nothing wrong in letting immigrants know what to expect about their future society. However, in view of Bill 21, one can’t help but be cynical about the Coalition Avenir Québec’s attempt to narrowly define who is – and who isn’t – vrai Québécois.

Quebec’s stance on gender equality is laughable in view of Bill 21 – hijab-clad Muslim women are barred from teaching in public schools, whereas Muslim men are not. Jewish men who sport a kippa or yarmulke cannot serve as prosecutors or clerks in a provincial court, while Jewish women face no such restrictions. The courts will decide if the notwithstanding clause overrides the violation of gender equality (as enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Nevertheless, we should emphasize gender equality to those arriving from countries where women are accorded fewer resources and rights than men. According to the 2016 census, three of the top 10 countries of birth of recent immigrants were Pakistan, Iran and Syria – all of which finished in the bottom five (of 145 countries) of the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Index.

The culture shock can be great. I still remember my cousin’s surprise when he could not access his mother’s bank account as a matter of right, as he used to do in Saudi Arabia. Or one Middle Eastern relative who was dismayed that his wife was automatically a co-owner of the marital home. Or one husband’s disbelief that he would have to split marital assets 50-50 in the case of divorce. These are hard-won rights for women that should never be compromised. Immigrant men have complied and adapted to the new reality. And that’s a good thing.

While current guidelines from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reiterate the equality of women and men before the law, they might want to add a line or two referring to everyday examples – such as financial independence and property rights of women. Instead, these guidelines leap to examples of criminal behaviour, stating: “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”

Such dramatic pronouncements, however, don’t help immigrants learn about the positive aspects of gender equality. And they lull Canadians into a sense of complacency that women in Canada are doing just fine. Not so fast.

In her compelling memoirs, Truth Be Told, Beverley McLachlin chronicles her own efforts to combat sexism within the legal profession but points to the broader fight for women’s equality throughout Canadian society. A fight that is by no means close to over.

According to the 2018 Gender Gap Index, Canada ranks 16th in the world (out of 149 countries) for its equitable distribution of resources between men and women. While we are tied for first in the field of education, we are 21st in political empowerment, 27th in economic participation and 104th in health/survival. The relatively high placements in politics and economics, however, mask absolute inequities.

For example, in 2018, Statistics Canada reported that Canadian women earned 87 cents for every $1 earned by men. A 2018 Angus Reid study indicated that women are more likely than men to experience poverty. Women in Canada live at greater risk than men of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and sex trafficking. Even with the #MeToo movement, women still underreport sexual assault and harassment. Women and girls are often subject to online hate and sexualized abuse. While women make up roughly half the population, they are underrepresented in political and professional leadership positions. As MacLean’s Anne Kingston rightly observed, sexism permeated the 2019 election, culminating in a vicious, sexist slur painted on Catherine McKenna’s campaign office.

“Working toward gender equality is not only still relevant. It is urgent,” observes the Canadian Women’s Foundation. It’s a message we should all take to heart. The fight for gender equality begins here.

Nepal is among 25 countries that deny women right to pass on citizenship to children independently

Good reference list:

In Nepal while there is a debate ongoing over whether to grant the women the right to confer citizenship to their children without any exception and limitation. South Asia Check has examined the citizenship laws and gender equality in the global context.

According to a survey report on Gender Equality, Nationality Laws and Stateless 2018 prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), equality between men and women relating to conferral of nationality upon children has not yet been attained in 25 countries. The majority of these states are in the Middle East and North Africa (twelve countries) and Sub Saharan Africa (six countries). In Asia and the Pacific there are five countries and in the Americas two countries that do not grant mothers equal rights as fathers to confer their nationality on their children. It is important to note that an additional group of states grants equality to men and women with regard to the nationality of children but not with regard to acquisition, change or retention of nationality upon change in civil status.

The classification of countries that limits women to confer nationality to their children

The table below uses a color scheme to divide the laws of the 25 countries into three categories. The laws of the first group of countries (red) have nationality laws which do not allow mothers to confer their nationality on their children with no, or very limited exceptions. These laws create the greatest risk of statelessness. The laws of the second group of countries (orange) have made some exceptions for mothers to confer nationality if the father is unknown or stateless. The laws of the third group of countries (yellow) also limit the conferral of nationality by women but additional guarantees ensure that statelessness will only arise in very few circumstances.

Table: Courtesy of UNHCR report

The law in Qatar doesn’t allow mothers to confer nationality on their children, without exception. According to the law of Kuwait, if a Kuwaiti mother has a child with a father who is unknown or whose paternity has not been established, the individual concerned may apply for Kuwaiti citizenship at majority. In such cases, nationality is granted by decree based on the discretionary recommendation of the Minister of Interior. However, this is an extraordinary measure that occurs rarely in practice.

The nationality law of Lebanon also allows only Lebanese fathers to confer their nationality on their children in all circumstances. Women can only confer their citizenship if the child is born out of marriage and recognized while a minor by the Lebanese mother.

The nationality laws of Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not allow women nationals married to foreign nationals to pass their nationality to their children. However, they do permit women nationals to confer their nationality on their children in certain circumstances such as where fathers are unknown, stateless, of unknown nationality or do not establish filiation.

In Iraq, although the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 establishes gender equality by providing that nationality is acquired by descent from either men or women, Iraq’s 2006 nationality law limits the ability of Iraqi women to confer nationality on children born outside the country. For such births, the child of an Iraqi mother may apply for Iraqi nationality within one year of reaching majority, providing that the child’s father is unknown or stateless and the child is residing in Iraq at the time of the application.

According to the nationality law of Syria, mothers can only confer nationality if the child was born in Syria and the father does not establish filiation in relation to the child. The law of Bahrain allows mothers to confer their nationality on their children born either in their home countries or abroad if the fathers are unknown or stateless. Under the law of Oman, mothers confer nationality on their children born either in their home countries or abroad if the fathers are unknown or are former Omani nationals.

In Mauritania, mothers can confer nationality on children when the father is unknown or stateless. Children born in Mauritania to Mauritanian mothers and foreign fathers, or to mothers who were born in Mauritania themselves, also acquire Mauritanian nationality. Children born abroad to Mauritanian mothers and foreign fathers can opt for Mauritanian nationality in the year before majority.

The laws of Somalia and Swaziland do not allow mothers to confer their citizenship on their children under the same conditions as fathers. Under the 1962 Somali Citizenship Law, only children of Somali fathers acquire Somali citizenship. Swaziland’s Constitution of 2005 stipulates that any child born inside or outside Swaziland prior to 2005 to at least one Swazi parent acquires Swazi citizenship by descent. However, children born after 2005 only acquire Swazi citizenship from their fathers, unless the child was born out of wedlock and has not been claimed by the father in accordance with customary law.

In Burundi, the 2000 Nationality Code does not allow mothers to transfer nationality to children except when maternal filiation is established when they are born out of wedlock to unknown fathers or if disowned by their fathers.

In Liberia, the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973 allows children born in Liberia to acquire Liberian citizenship at birth. Children born abroad to Liberian mothers, however, are excluded from acquiring Liberian citizenship. In case of Togo, the 1978 nationality grants citizenship to children born in its territory who cannot claim the nationality of another state, it only allow mothers to confer their nationality on their children if the father is stateless or of unknown nationality.

In Sudan the amended law in 2005 allows a child born to a Sudanese mother to acquire Sudanese nationality by birth by following an application process.

In Brunei Darussalam and Iran, only fathers can confer their respective nationalities on their children in all circumstances.

In Kiribati, children born in the country to an i-Kiribati father or mother can acquire nationality of Kiribati; however, only children born abroad to i-Kiribati fathers, not mothers, acquire the nationality of Kiribati. In Malaysia, children born in the country to either Malaysian mothers or Malaysian fathers automatically acquire Malaysian nationality. But children born to Malaysian mothers outside of Malaysia may only acquire Malaysian citizenship at the discretion of the Federal Government through registration at an overseas Malaysian consulate or at the National Registration Department in Malaysia.

In Nepal, children born to Nepali fathers acquire Nepali citizenship in all circumstances. Children born in Nepal to Nepali mothers and foreign fathers can apply to acquire citizenship through naturalization, provided they have permanent domicile in Nepal and have not acquired the foreign citizenship of their fathers.

In The Bahamas, children born in the country to either a Bahamian father or mother acquire Bahamian nationality; however, only children born abroad to Bahamian fathers, not mothers, can acquire Bahamian nationality. The same applies in Barbados, where children born in Barbados to either Barbadian mothers or fathers acquire Barbadian nationality, but Barbadian mothers cannot confer nationality on their children born abroad, whereas Barbadian fathers can.

Source: Nepal is among 25 countries that deny women right to pass on citizenship to children independently

Citizenship in India not gender-neutral, Arizona State U professor asserts

Interesting article on the long-standing impact of “personal law” and group religious rights in India:

One aspect of Indian democracy that is unfamiliar to most Americans is the concept of personal law, a legacy of British colonial administration. Four religious communities – majority Hindu and minority Muslim, Christian and Parsi – have their own personal laws. Other religious groups, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain, are subsumed under Hindu personal law. No one may opt out of a religious identity, and therefore no one is exempt from personal law. Proponents of personal law claim that it secures religious difference, Behl said.

“Personal law associated with India’s religious communities shapes every aspect of a woman’s life – her status at birth; her capacity to own, inherit and manage property; her freedom to work, marry, divorce and remarry; and her relationship with her children,” she [Natasha Behl] said.

“Personal law effectively suspends Indian women’s most basic rights on behalf of group rights. The issue of personal law divides women on multiple fronts – between their respective religious communities, between civil rights and minority rights, and between gender equality and minority claims for recognition.”

The interviews Behl conducted for the “Situated citizenship” article document situations including a disconnect between property and inheritance rights for women, which in theory are legally protected, and the reality in the community. “Practically speaking, girls don’t receive any land from their parents, and they don’t receive any land from their in-laws,” one interviewee told her.

Deep multiculturalism focus on group rights rather than ‘shallow’ multiculturalism focussing on individual rights as in Canada, Australia etc.

Citizenship in India not gender-neutral, ASU professor asserts | ASU News.

The misplaced moral panic at York University | Toronto Star

Amazing. Much of what is said is valid. Of course the male student had the right to request accommodation, of course we have to take accept his beliefs as sincere, but we do not have to accept this request. The authors of this piece skirt that key issue: do they favour the granting or not of the request?

The implication is they do but lack the courage to state so clearly, and just muddle things up with general comments about lack of gender equality and participation in Canada.

Importantly, the Canadian version of secularism does not require people to abandon their deeply held beliefs. Religious people are welcome to bring their ideas to the public table. As Muslim women, we may disagree with the accommodation-seeking student that Islam requires absolute social segregation between men and women (assuming the student is Muslim; his religious affiliation has not been confirmed) – but we defend the right of individuals, including this much-maligned student, to hold their personal religious opinions and to ask the state to accommodate them.

Moreover, as Canadian women, we appreciate how far academic institutions, and Canadian society in general, still are from the ideal of gender equality. Women in Canada – like women in other recovering patriarchies – experience high rates of gendered violence; are persistently underrepresented in the senior ranks of politics, law, business, and academia; and face a significant gender wage gap (Canada’s is among the highest of the OECD countries). Islam is not the threat to gender equality in Canada: patriarchy, in all its various manifestations, is.

The misplaced moral panic at York University | Toronto Star.