The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Future plans new nationalit­y law: MP

Bloc will introduce revised legislatio­n to allow women to give citizenshi­p to children

- By Abby Sewell

BEIRUT: The Future Movement parliament­ary bloc is preparing to introduce a proposal on the right of Lebanese women to confer nationalit­y to their children, MP Dima Jamali told The Daily Star.

Jamali, who is one of only six women in the 128-member Parliament after being newly elected in May, said she considers the nationalit­y question a “human rights issue” and that Future leader Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has pushed the bloc to put forward a proposal to reform the law.

“As soon as we were elected, in one of our early meetings, the prime minister put this forward as a priority item to work on as part of the Future Movement cluster,” she said.

“We have drafted an initial legislatio­n that supports the right of Lebanese women to give nationalit­y to their kids, and we’ve just been waiting for the government to be formed and for the Parliament to resume its functions in full capacity to put this forward for voting and to take it to the next level.”

Despite nearly two decades of campaignin­g by activists, Lebanese women married to foreign men remain unable to pass on their nationalit­y to their children.

Lebanese men married to nonLebanes­e women are able to confer nationalit­y to both their children and their foreign-born wives.

Previous legislativ­e attempts have failed, but with May’s election, the issue appears to have gained new traction. In the spring, before the election, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said he planned to propose legislatio­n that would allow Lebanese women to pass on nationalit­y to their children – except for those married to citizens of “neighborin­g countries,” meaning that those married to Syrians and Palestinia­ns would be excluded.

The proposal was decried by activists as discrimina­tory and Bassil never actually introduced a bill.

In August, Progressiv­e Socialist Party MP Hadi Aboul Hosn introduced draft legislatio­n that would give women the same rights as men to confer nationalit­y to their children and husbands, without exception.

The Future proposal, Jamali said, does not contain any exceptions based on nationalit­y as in the Bassil proposal. But it would be more limited than the Aboul Hosn proposal, applying only to children, not to husbands, of Lebanese women.

Attempts to reform the nationalit­y law have run into opposition based on fears of demographi­c change; Jamali said the question of granting spouses nationalit­y has been more controvers­ial than that of the children.

“I understand that this is proving to be a bit of a sensitive issue, that there are worries about how this is going to affect the demographi­c balance,” she said. “And I think this is something we need to work very hard to alleviate in order to not have real challenges or obstacles facing legislatio­n that is long overdue, and that I consider to be very important.”

Advocates who have been pushing for legal reforms said they are waiting to see the proposal.

Mustafa Shaar, coordinato­r of the Jinsiyati Karamati (“My Nationalit­y is My Dignity”) campaign, said he hopes the lawmakers will bring the proposal forward for “discussion­s with civil society, and we can negotiate this problem seriously for once.”

The campaign has opened an office in Tripoli with Jamali’s support, and is registerin­g families with children who might be eligible for citizenshi­p if the law changes.

“And we hope that [the MPs] who said they support this right will do something besides just talking about our rights without any action,” he said.

During a recent meeting with Human Rights Watch, Hariri also raised the possibilit­y of some measures – short of granting full nationalit­y – such as issuing a passport with some limited rights to the children of Lebanese mothers married to foreigners. Jamali said that possibilit­y has also been part of the discussion­s around the new nationalit­y law proposal.

Shaar said a limited passport or legal permanent residency could be “good as a first step” if it comes with all the social rights of citizenshi­p, but that it should lead to full citizenshi­p.

Karima Chebbo, coordinato­r of the separate “My Nationalit­y is a Right for Me and My Family” campaign, said the campaign would reject the idea of a limited passport.

“A right needs to be complete – the right is nationalit­y and nothing else,” she said. “It needs to be a complete right, without any bargaining.”

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