BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil will present Wednesday a bill to the Cabinet allowing Lebanese women to pass on their citizenship to their offspring, in line with “Lebanon’s constitution and international agreements.”
Speaking at a news conference held at the Foreign Ministry, Bassil underscored the need for Lebanese women to be afforded the same rights as Lebanese men, saying that “our constitution rejects discrimination based on gender."
"We abide by international agreements such as the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women," Bassil noted, before adding that "it is my duty to put forth this initiative."
Lebanon’s nationality law dates back to 1925 and is in contradiction with the constitution, as it stipulates that a person is considered Lebanese only if they have a Lebanese father.
During the news conference, the Foreign Minister confirmed that his proposal would seek to introduce amendments to the law, yet will bar women who marry men from “neighboring countries” from passing on the Lebanese citizenship.
This restriction will prevent a demographic imbalance in the country, Bassil said, arguing that "Lebanon is facing an existential threat and our government is determined to pave the way for Syrian and Palestinian refugees to return home." Lebanon is now home to around 1.5 million Syrian refugees and over 200,000 Palestinians.
“This restriction will preserve Lebanon’s entity,” Bassil said, adding that Lebanon should beware of “collective naturalization.”
To further provide a leveled playing field for both Lebanese women and men, Bassil noted that men will also be prevented from passing on their citizenship if they marry women from these “neighboring” countries.
“What is not allowed for women should also not be allowed for men,” he said.
According to article 4 of the draft law obtained by Annahar, “a Lebanese person who marries an individual that entered Lebanon as a refugee or displaced migrant is excluded from the provisions of this draft law.”
Lebanese Christian political parties, including the Free Patriotic Movement, Kataeb, and Lebanese Forces have vehemently opposed the amendment of the law over the years unless this provision is included, for fear of drastically altering the demographic religious landscape of the country, as the majority of Palestinian refugees are Sunni.
The debate over amending the nationality law has been garnering traction in recent months as advocacy groups continue to raise the issue ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Karim Chebbo, the Coordinator of the ‘My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family’ campaign told Annahar earlier this month that the current law strips away “women’s basic rights and degrades them.”
According to ‘Predicament of Lebanese Women Married to Non-Lebanese Men,’ a research project released in 2009, Lebanese women who are married to non-Lebanese men face extreme difficulties compared to those married to Lebanese men.
Around 77,000 cases were documented in 2009, which highlighted the struggles their children face, from being barred from entering the country without a visa to not being able to register in their respective associations.
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