A New Law Finally Passed on Foreign Women’s Lebanese Citizenship

Partial progress:

It is no secret that women in Lebanon have to deal still with archaic gender-bias laws that require urgent changes, adjustments, or even the total eradication of some. Reconciling their reality with the Lebanese progressive mentality and our women’s high level of education and career success has been a painful hardship for our society.

Among these laws, the rights of Lebanese women to nationalize their children when born to foreign fathers, and the rights of foreign spouses to the nationality.

The struggles have been more relevant these past two decades, naturally, considering the ongoing evolution of our women and their awakening to what’s right and fair and what isn’t in our laws. Hence, in recent years, their efforts and endeavors have been many, even countless, to bring balance and harmony to our human society with judicial fairness and rights.

So, no wonder we get to heartily welcome now the memorandum of the Director-General for Personal Status, Mr. Elias Khoury. He demands from the Head of Departments and Registry Officers the application of Article 5 of the Lebanese Nationality Law.

The Article 5 declares, “The foreign woman married to a Lebanese shall, upon her request, become Lebanese after one year from the date of registration of the marriage in the Civil Status Office.”

Therefore, as of this month, foreign women spouses of Lebanese citizens are entitled to apply for the Lebanese citizenship at the registry offices without the signature of their husbands.

The memorandum stressed that “A new form must be adapted to fill the application for citizenship, which preserves the law of nationality from one side and is less complicated than the previous model, in both practical and administrative terms, while adhering to the same mechanism in order to ensure all information contained in the application and the right of women to obtain Nationality.”

In force as of April 1st, both the memorandum and the new form state: “Memorandum No. 35 concerning the mechanism and conditions of reception and completion of transactions of acquisition of nationality by marriage.”

These Mechanisms and conditions can be reviewed on the website of the Directorate General for Civil Status www.dgcs.gov.lb

It remains that foreign women working or residing in Lebanon cannot, by law, apply for citizenship if they are not married to a Lebanese man. That privilege is granted only by ‘male priority placed on women’ and not by their own rights.

Nonetheless, we maintain hope that this is only the beginning for more and more improvements and changes towards a more consciously evolved human society. After all, the reason of existence of any and all laws is, by principle and ethics, to serve the well-being of all citizens equally. Failure to do so, their reason to exist is no longer.

Source: A New Law Finally Passed on Foreign Women’s Lebanese Citizenship

Lebanon’s misogynistic citizenship law

Ongoing struggle:

Aziza Chami wipes away tears as she describes the toll Lebanon’s misogynistic citizenship laws have taken on her daughter.

“My daughter graduated three years ago but still can’t find a job,” Chami told Al Jazeera. “I tried to get her work at the hospital where I have been working for 20 years as a cleaning lady, but they refused, claiming she is not Lebanese.”

Chami is a Lebanese citizen. But her daughter was denied that birthright because her father – Chami’s late husband – was Egyptian.

Under a law dating back to 1925, Lebanese women married to foreigners cannot confer nationality on their children and spouses, only the children of Lebanese men are eligible for citizenship.

Lebanon does extend the right to citizenship to children born in Lebanon who cannot claim citizenship elsewhere through birth or affiliation, and children whose parents are either unknown or whose parents have unknown nationality.

But children whose mothers are Lebanese and fathers are foreign are denied citizenship.

The antiquated law has been criticised for placing some children at risk of statelessness. It can also have severe implications on their quality of life.

Children denied Lebanese citizenship under the law cannot work in certain fields or access public healthcare. They also need a residence permit to stay in the country, renewable every three years.

Chami says the institutional discrimination has become too much for her daughter to bear.

“This is the third time my daughter has been hospitalised for stress, but we don’t have enough money to pay for it,” said Chami. “I no longer know what to do.”

Children like Chami’s daughter need a work visa to be legally employed in Lebanon; a hurdle which can make them less attractive to prospective employers.

“My son tried to work in Lebanon but the companies he met with did not want to bother with all the paperwork,” Nadira Nahas, a Lebanese woman married to a US citizen, told Al Jazeera.

Nahas said her son wanted to be a pilot, but when the airline he approached learned he was a US citizen, they said they could not hire him.

“Now, he lives in Dubai,” she said.

Some mothers try to proactively steer their children away from certain jobs to avoid disappointment.

“We are losing our children because of this law,” Hanadi Nasser, a Lebanese married to a Syrian, told Al Jazeera.

“I have already told my children not to consider certain jobs because I know they will not be able to work in these fields, she said. My eldest son has already told me he will leave the country.”

Though there are no firm official estimates, a United Nations study published in 2009 offers some clues about the potential scale of those affected. The UN analysis found that between 1995 and 2008, there were some 18,000 marriages between Lebanese women and non-Lebanese men.

But the problem is not unique to Lebanon. According to an annual report published last year by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 25 countries do not grant women equality with men in conferring nationality to their children.

Demographic balance

Efforts to overhaul Lebanon’s citizenship rules have so far proved fruitless. Politicians have argued that amending the law could destabilise the country by upsetting its demographic and sectarian balance.

Some believe it would jeopardise Lebanon’s religious balance and allow the integration of Palestinian and Syrian refugees.

In 2010, former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud made some headway in easing the bureaucratic burden for children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers by spearheading efforts to abolish residency visa renewal fees.

But his attempts to introduce a new draft law to overturn existing rules failed to gain traction.

“It has never been submitted to the council of ministers,” he told Al Jazeera. “There was no way to talk about this subject at that time apparently.”

Some hope the new Lebanese government will be more open to reform. Four women have been appointed to Lebanon’s cabinet in January, including the first woman to serve as interior minister in the Arab world.

Six members of parliament are also female.

Activists who have long campaigned to abolish the discriminatory citizenship law are hopeful change is on the horizon.

Mustafa Shaar founded the NGO My Nationality, My Dignity in 2011 to draw attention to the issue.

In addition to organising sit-ins, marches and workshops, Shaar’s NGO receives dozens of people a day in its offices in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli.

He told Al Jazeera about a 17-year-old man who was prepared to set himself on fire to protest against the citizenship rules.

“He told me ‘I swear to God I will do it, because I am as good as dead right now anyway. I want to die to help the others who are like me’,” said Shaar, who added that his case is far from isolated.

‘Lebanon’s hypocrisy’

Lebanon is often depicted as a relatively progressive country in the region. But activists like Lina Abou Habib believe the misogynistic citizenship law makes a mockery of that image.

“This is the Lebanese hypocrisy,” Abou Habib told Al Jazeera. “We pretend we are modern people while our laws are null and void.”

Abou Habib has been campaigning for nearly two decades to change the law. Her current efforts are focused on a new bill drafted last summer.

“It is a very good one,” said Abou Habib. “We are currently starting to take the necessary steps to the ministers of women and the one of the interior, to push them to consider this draft law. We will soon have a workshop with MPs to talk about it. It will be challenging, but at some point, it will work.”

But bigoted attitudes remain a threat to reform.

Last spring, Gebran Bassil, minister of foreign affairs, sparked an outcry when he said he would propose a new draft bill stating that Lebanese women may pass on their citizenship, but that it would not apply to women who marry men from “neighbouring” countries, which many interpreted to mean Syrians and Palestinians.

Reform efforts are also winding their way through Lebanon’s courts.

In 2009, Judge John Qazzi, president of the first instance court at the time, ruled that the children of Samira Soueidan, a Lebanese married to an Egyptian man, should obtain the Lebanese nationality.

The state appealed Qazzi’s decision. A final ruling is still pending.

“I am an intruder in this system,” Qazzi told Al Jazeera. “I am optimistic about the fact that this law will be amended because more and more voices are being raised on this issue”.

Abou Habib also believes the nation’s progressive instincts will prevail.

“Lebanon has made great progress in terms of political and social debates, on different topics. Violence against women, nationality, LGBTQ rights, personal civil status,” she said.

Meanwhile, mothers such as Nadira Nahas continue to wait for the state to abolish the near century-old law and finally grant citizenship to the children of Lebanese women.

“Laws are like medicines. They have an expiry date,” she said. “We should update our laws.”

Source: Lebanon’s misogynistic citizenship law

Lebanese lawmaker fights ‘degrading’ citizenship law against women

Uphill struggle:

Nine months after being voted into the 128-seat Lebanese parliament as one of six female lawmakers, Paula Yacoubian is urging fellow legislators to help change discriminatory laws that are an “injustice” against women.

Yacoubian, 42, won her seat as a civil society candidate in May’s election, and prides herself on being the first woman in Lebanon’s parliament not aligned with any political party in the country’s sectarian political system.

The former journalist turned lawmaker’s biggest battle is gaining nationality rights for thousands of stateless children born to Lebanese women.

In Lebanon, women married to foreigners cannot pass their Lebanese nationality on to their husbands or children.

“There is so much injustice. You have thousands of kids in this country that have no rights – they are Lebanese, they grew up here, they speak only Arabic,” Yacoubian told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from her Beirut office.

“It is not only about women – it is about suffering families … They don’t have a piece of paper that says that you have a nationality – it is degrading.”

Stateless children cannot access public healthcare, have difficulty getting access to education, and when they are old enough, they cannot work without a permit, according to the law.

Additionally, women in some communities can’t inherit or own property regardless of who they marry.Lebanon is far behind other countries in the region, like Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, that have provided equal citizenship rights to men and women, activists who have worked on the issue said.

MORE PROTECTION FOR WOMEN

Beyond reform, Yacoubian said it is critical for additional laws to be passed in order to protect young women’s health and against forced marriage.

There is no minimum age for marriage in Lebanon. Religious communities can allow girls younger than 15 to marry, according to Human Rights Watch.

Yacoubian supports KAFA, a local campaign group calling on Lebanon to pass a law to make 18 the minimum age for marriage – with no exceptions.

“If there [are] any exceptions to be made it will not have the same impact. The message should be very clear – no marriage under 18,” she said.

Globally, 12 million girls marry before age 18 every year, according to Girls Not Brides, a coalition working to end child marriage.

KAFA said other Arab countries are a step ahead of Lebanon in setting 18 as the minimum marriage age, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

Protecting women against violence also needs “a lot of work” in a country that passed a long-awaited law in 2014 against domestic violence, Yacoubian said.

But rights groups were outraged that authorities watered it down so much it fell short of criminalising marital rape.

A 2017 national study by ABAAD, a Lebanese women’s rights group, found that one in four women have been raped in Lebanon. Less than a quarter of those sexually assaulted reported it, the survey said.

TIME FOR DISRUPTION

With women in Lebanon gaining only two seats in parliament in May’s election for a total of six, Yacoubian said there needs to be a 33 percent quota to give women fair representation.

“It is their rights first to be represented – to have equal chances. And because this is the real representation of Lebanon … more than half of the country is women. They should be represented in a way that reflects how the society works.”

“I think in the long run it can be disruptive for this patriarchal system that humiliates women.”

Having women in lawmaking postitions will help boost women’s rights in a country where men don’t view women as their equals – something she has experienced herself in the workplace, Yacoubian said.

“I have MPs who treat me as if I am either a flower or something fragile … We don’t have a culture that understands that women are equal to men,” she said.

Many months after May’s election, Lebanese leaders are still at odds over how to parcel out cabinet positions among rival groups as mandated by a political system that shares government positions among Christian and Muslim sects.

Yacoubian called it a “mafia system” that is running the country based off of religion, money and power – dominated by men.

She said she will “keep fighting” for women’s rights and is hopeful legal changes will be made to protect women.

“I hope it will be soon because you will have less suffering, less problems. I am sure that one day this country will see a new horizon, a new light.”

Uproar in Lebanon over ‘naturalization’ granting hundreds citizenship – Al Arabiya English

Speaks for itself:

A controversial decree granting citizenship to 375 foreigners has sent ripples across Lebanon in the last 48 hours after news emerged that President Michel Aoun signed the resolution along with Prime Minister designate Saad al-Hariri and caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouq.

While government officials kept silent, civil societies and activists took to social media to vent their anger and criticism.

The decree, which was riddled with accusations of bribery, grants Lebanese citizenship to affluent applicants including Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and Iranian nationals.

While MP Nadim Gemayel from Kataeb party was the first to announce the list of the names of those included in the presidential decree of naturalization, there was conflicting information as to whether the decree had already been signed.

In an interview with Al Arabiya news channel, MP Gemayel confirmed the signing of the decree according to sources close to the presidential palace.

Aoun’s office has yet to comment on the matter, with sources telling Annahar newspaper that the decree might have been drafted before the May 6 elections while the Cabinet was still fully operational. Both Hariri and Mashnouq have also refrained from commenting up to this point.

But the caretaker Justice minister Salim Jreissati confirmed in a statement Friday the signing of the decree which sent waves of shocks to a lot of Lebanese citizens especially Lebanese women married to foreigners who cannot grant citizenship to their children due to religious considerations and others related to the issue of settling the Palestinians.

These development draws a lot of questions whether if the law grants the Minister of the Interior, the President of the Republic with the approval of a majority of ministers, a naturalization decree.

The question now is about the “category” that has been naturalized, especially if it is true that they are rumored to be financiers who have paid about $ 200,000. If that is true the Lebanese are asking on social media: “Where did all that money go and in whose pocket it ended up?”

via Uproar in Lebanon over ‘naturalization’ granting hundreds citizenship – Al Arabiya English

Lebanon’s Sexist Citizenship Law Mothers, Babies

On the inability of Lebanese women to pass on their citizenship to their children if the father in non-Lebanese:

A study conducted by the American University of Beirut showed that the vast majority of Lebanese people surveyed supported Lebanese women’ passing on their citizenship to their Palestinian children and, to a slightly lesser degree, to their Palestinian husbands. Ultimately, as Abou Habib puts it, “The right of Lebanese women should not be a matter of political debate.”

Lebanon is not the only country to prohibit women from passing on their citizenship. It’s not even the only Arab country to do so. But unlike other Arab states, Lebanon considers itself a beacon of liberalism in the Middle East, the place where East meets West. Lebanon cannot claim to uphold Western values while continuing to deny women equal rights.

Countries far less liberal than Lebanon, such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, have made provisions to prevent statelessness. Children of Emirati women and foreign men, for example, can apply for citizenship after they reach the age of 18. Egypt, a country known for its culture of sexism, has granted women the full right to pass their citizenship on to their children.

I am proud to be Lebanese. So is my childhood friend. We identify as such. We want our children to be Lebanese, regardless of who their fathers are. Being Lebanese is being part of a community. It is being part of a people who have a zest for life, a kindness, a humor and a resilience. It is being part of my family. We want to be celebrated in Lebanon on Mother’s Day. But how can we keep ties to a country that creates so many hurdles for our children? How can we instill in them a sense of Lebanese pride if the country won’t acknowledge them as their own?

Lebanon’s Sexist Citizenship Law Mothers, Babies | Al Jazeera America.

Minister Kenney concludes successful trip to Lebanon – Canada News Centre

Interesting quote by Kenney on Lebanon’s “balanced partnership.” Not sure that I would characterize that way, given Lebanon’s past civil wars and that it is largely a country with parallel structures, rather than the more integrative model of multiculturalism in Canada:

Canada’s model of pluralism is profoundly relevant to Lebanon, the only Middle Eastern country built on a balanced partnership between religious and ethnic communities.

Minister Kenney concludes successful trip to Lebanon – Canada News Centre.