Nationality Campaign Sit-in, Beirut, April 3. Photo by Alya Awada

Breaking news from the Claiming Equal Citizenship Campaign in Lebanon:

For the first time since the promulgation of Lebanon’s current nationality law in 1925 (!), the Lebanese Cabinet included the review and reform of the Nationality Law on its official agenda of discussions for its March 21 meeting. Indeed, current Prime Minister Mikati indicated his will and wish to “bring a present to the women of Lebanon on the occasion of Mothers’ Day (March 21st).”

However, rather than endorsing the long awaited and rightful reform of the nationality law, the Cabinet regretfully opted to meander and dilute the process by referring the petition submitted by the Minister of the Interior (itself a proposal that fails to meet our expectations of equality and non-discrimination) to a sub-committee, arguing that they wish to “improve on the proposal”. Outside of our disappointment with the law proposed by the Minister of Labor, the Nationality Campaign would like to express serious concern with regards to the ways in which the Cabinet chose to disregard the urgency of the matter, and the need to reform the nationality law immediately in view of the severe and often irreversible hardships that result from this discrimination. The alleged search for a “broader framework for the reform” appears to be a nebulous process with no guaranteed results especially given past experiences.

The Nationality Campaign has also learned that there is a tendency within the Cabinet to exclude Lebanese women married to Palestinian men from a potential reformed Nationality Law, despite the position of Prime Minister Mikati, which has been clearly supportive of an all-inclusive reform of the Law. This tendency towards discriminating against a specific group of Lebanese women is being justified by clause (d) of the Constitution, which prohibits the implantation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The paradox in this case is that Palestinian women married to Lebanese men are entitled to become Lebanese along with their children from earlier marriages thus overcoming said clause in the Constitution. It is also paradoxical that this clause is given primacy over another clause in the Constitution, which consecrates equality in rights amongst all citizens, women and men.

The Nationality Campaign is also surprised that the right of Lebanese women to transmit their nationality to their children is considered to be a “naturalization,” which is a fallacy as these children are not foreigners who are being “naturalized.” Children are Lebanese by virtue of being born to Lebanese mothers.

The Nationality Campaign continues to reiterate that its fundamental principles are those of full and substantive equality, full and inclusive citizenship rights, and the primacy of international conventions, namely CEDAW, which are the principles that should guide the reform of the Nationality Laws in Lebanon. The law petition submitted by the Nationality Campaign to the PM embodies these principles and insists that both women and men should have equal and similar rights to transmit their nationality.

Within the same vein, the Nationality Campaign insists that the Ministerial Committee, entrusted to review reform of the Nationality Law, clarify the fundamental principles that will guide its work, its proposed timeline, and the process through which it will consult with civil society organizations, especially women’s rights organizations.

The Nationality Campaign is therefore committed to pursue its contacts, lobbying and alliance-building with all actors in civil society, as well as in the public sector, especially those who continue to oppose this rightful reform of Nationality Laws in Lebanon.

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