I am a Lebanese woman married to a Swiss man. My children will never be Lebanese, nor will my husband, because I am considered as a second class citizen in my own country, which doesn’t seem to deem it necessary to grant me the same citizenship rights as everyone else (also known as men).
My friend, we’ll call her Lina, is married to a Palestinian, and walks around with her two blue cards in her purse, one for her child, one for her husband, those two little permits that virtually grant them nothing. May the law be amended soon, I told her, it’ll facilitate our lives.
Kess ekht 2al balad, she replied, arranging a strand of her loosely curly hair.
Lina has a tendency to swear with a sweet smile, while I tend to slam doors while doing it. To each its own.
Lebanon, along with many Arab countries, has enacted reservations to the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), notably pertaining to citizenship rights (art. 9 par. (2) of the Convention) and rights within marriage (art.16 par (1) (c) (d) (f) (g) of the Convention). Reservations are conditions put forward by States parties to a Convention or a Treaty enabling signatories to consider they will not be or only partly bound by some dispositions within the instrument they’re signing and ratifying.
Article 9 (2) of the CEDAW Convention states that:
2. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.
When signing CEDAW, Lebanon has enacted its reservation with regards to this article, stating it will not consider itself legally bound by it.
In International Law, there is a strict procedure to follow when putting forward reservations. Among other things, reservations need to be in conformity with the object and the purpose of the treaty. Clearly, a reservation aiming at discriminating women with regards to citizenship rights within a Convention against all forms of Discrimination against women is against the object and purpose of the treaty, and should have been objected to by other States signatories. However, Arab States submitted their ratification of the treaty to the acceptance of their reservations, so the International Community chose to accept them, for the sake of having more States being bound to at least some parts of the Convention. Which was all well and dandy, but left Arab women to fend for themselves when advocating for the end of this blatant form of discrimination. Arab governments can now claim their reservations were made in all legality as no one objected to them, making the advocacy work activists more difficult.
More difficult, but doable nonetheless: States parties may have not objected, but activists and civil society are and have been and will continue.
So let me get this straight: as a woman, I will carry a child during 9 months, I will bear the burden of giving birth to it (no walk in the park), I will feed it with my own breasts and help raise it and be its mother, his primary caregiver or what have you, yet I am deemed by a government made mostly of grey aging overweight men that my child will not have the same passport as me?
I don’t think so.
The Lebanese government can claim the contrary until blue in the face, citizenship rights define what kind of relationship citizens have with a State, and in the present context in Lebanon, the State clearly indicates that all intents and purposes, women are second class citizens. Patriarchy and the sectarian system of Lebanon work hand in hand in oppressing women on a daily basis: indeed, most political parties position themselves with regards to citizenship rights not on the need to stop discrimination against women, but on confessional calculations, the main question being: if Lebanese women married to foreigners can give their citizenship, how will it affect the confessional balance of Lebanon?
To which I reply: I don’t give a damn, get out of this poisonous sectarian thought system and give me my right, for women should not bear the burden of harmful political practices.
The Jinsiyati campaign (the Nationality Campaign), started several years ago, has been gathering women’s rights activists in an effort to amend the law. Even though public authorities have started facilitating the emission of permits to non-Lebanese spouses married to Lebanese women, the law is still at a standstill. To add insult to injury, the Lebanese government has speedily endorsed a law enabling Lebanese emigrants to reclaim their Lebanese nationality, but ONLY if they have a Lebanese father or grandfather. Once more, women are put aside, and the discrimination is furthered. This new law completely overlooks Lebanese women’s participation in the economic and social life of Lebanon and the situation in which women married to foreigners are experiencing.
This is why today at 15:00, women’s rights activists and supporters will gather in a sit in protesting against the lack of political will to change the discriminating law. Women will also donate their blood in solidarity and to show that Lebanese women, just as men, have Lebanese blood.
Join us in front of the Ministry of Interior in Beirut, and help us put the government back in front of their responsibilities.
Say NO to discrimination against women, you have a voice, make it be heard!
Sit In For Lebanese Women Rights to Grant Nationality to their Family
If you’re in Beirut, join us tomorrow for a sit in in front of the Ministry of Interior at 15:00 on the Sanaye3 Roundabout. More details here:
Lebanese women are acting and advocating for change: they deserve full citizenship rights, and the right to grant their families their nationality is one.
Besides, a draft law is currently being examined by the Parliament to give Lebanese citizenship to Lebanese abroad whose father or grandfather was Lebanese, mothers and grandmothers not being taken into account. This is only furthering the discrimination against women in a country where laws pertaining to women are discriminatory and in violation of the CEDAW convention.
So Join our Struggle towards substantive gender equality!
Blog post will follow the sit in and Tweets under @CafeThawra
My take on feminism and social media for AWID last b http://yfa.awid.org/2011/12/social-media-and-feminists-opportunities-threats-and-awareness/ logathon
She stays still like a rock amidst the chaos, mineral and cold in the scorching sun. She stays and sits still, oh so still, she stays and gazes at the stars in the pitch blackness of night, searching for them, trying to find strength in their incandescence. She sits and stays and she gazes at passers by, watching the dead go by. She stopped eating and talking, she has neither time nor interest in the mundanity of her own life, people think she has gone mute with despair, they just don’t understand her whole being is focused on keeping her child alive, for the tinniest move might kill her life. Folding on and within herself, she stares at the streets, surprised that other people could still come and go while her child was well locked up in a hellish hole, enduring and suffering things she dares not name, things beyond inhumanity. Each and every day is a battle against thinking what they’re doing to people’s children. She’s like an arrow on a mission, the mission of keeping her child alive by sitting still, oh so still, only her lips slightly moving, whispering prayers and pleas with God: if you give me my child back I shall go on an endless pilgrimage, I shall speak your name and yours only, I shall spread your Word. I shall even try and believe in you. Anything, just to feel once again the honeyed warmth of the tender filial embrace, to get a whiff of her own blood: her child.
Vague murmurs among stifled sobs come to her, yet she doesn’t cry, only waking up from her trance to scold those who do: shut up, she says to the flabbergasted crowd of mourners, shut up right this minute. Freedom comes at a cost, and our child is paying its tribute to it.
She swivels back, eyes ablaze, the burning feeling inside of her building and swelling until it envelops her is a halo of electric rage.
They may have taken you, but they made a bolt of lightning out of me.
Freedom comes at a cost mama, her child had said before leaving for never coming back.
A price I m willing to pay.
A price I m paying right now.
And with that she put on her black dress and dignity, and marched down to join the pounding crowds below her.
My take on Sawt al Niswa on the prospective abolitionist law on sex work in France http://www.sawtalniswa.com/2011/12/how-about-we-listen-to-sex-workers
Another article I wrote about marital rape in Lebanon, let’s put as much pressure as we can for the government to finally change the law!