Campaigning for equal nationality rights in Lebanon
On July 4th, Equality Now MENA, in partnership with the Committee for the Follow Up on Women Issues (CFUWI), launched the campaign for equal citizenship rights in Lebanon, in the presence of twelve major Lebanese NGOs working in the field of women’s rights and human rights.
The meeting was also attended by Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukoz, President of the National Commission of Lebanese Women (NCLW), the official body created by the Council of Ministers following Beijing 1995, in order to promote the rights of women in the country. Roukoz was represented by Ms. Randa Abbou.
The struggle for equal nationality rights in Lebanon
Whereas Egypt was the first Arab country to spearhead the process in the MENA region, Algeria and Tunisia are pertinent examples because their new citizenship law respects gender equality more than any other Arab country.
The Beijing Declaration in 1995 shifted the feminist discourse in Lebanon from one rooted in social assistance and development to one based on legal rights and legal equality.
The struggle for equal nationality rights was a natural development emanating from this shift, and gained momentum in the last 12 years, thanks to the efforts of major national NGOs. This effort has put the issue of unequal nationality rights on the map, and created awareness about it, without resulting in legal change to date.
Building a coalition
The purpose of the meeting was to create a national coalition of NGOs to drive reform of nationality law in Lebanon through launching awareness campaigns and lobbying parliament to adopt the proposed changes.
Equality Now, along with CFUWI has prepared a draft nationality law, which as opposed to most existing draft nationality laws, is based on complete gender equality, giving Lebanese mothers the same legal rights to pass on their nationality to their children and spouses as their male counterpart.
During the consultation meeting, participant NGOs expressed their interest in joining in principle the coalition and to work along with EN MENA and CFUWI to make the change happen. They offered the following suggestions:
- NGOs, unlike political parties or the National Commission of Lebanese Women, can endorse a draft nationality law that respects gender equality to the fullest
- Creating a national coalition around a single draft law is very important to affect change
- It is very essential to create awareness among the public and politicians and MPs alike around the existing discrimination in the nationality law
- It is important that the campaign not be restricted to the capital but spread in other regions as well
- The campaign should reach out to youth, especially university students
- The campaign should not repeat what has been done previously. It should be innovative and allow for mock public hearings to be staged, where women affected by the current nationality law can share stories of suffering and exclusion
- Work on building the coalition and spreading awareness should start as soon as possible
What you can do
Interested in joining this coalition in Lebanon? Get in touch at [email protected]