MPs Take Steps to Amend Nationality Law
Najjar: primary issue on table is rights of Lebanese women married to foreigners
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Parliament took the first steps on Friday to introduce long-awaited amendments to citizenship laws for women married to foreigners, as Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said “it’s no longer possible to avoid this topic.”
Najjar pledged that discussions on the matter would take place “with all frankness, even though arriving at the goal won’t be swift.”
Najjar was speaking at a meeting of Parliament’s Committee on Modernizing Legislation, and was joined by his colleagues in the Cabinet, Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud and Minister of State Mona Ofeish.
The participants decided to form a sub-committee, headed by Ofeish, to set down a list of legal texts that should be amended. Ofeish will be joined on the sub-committee by Nasri Diab, Marie-Claude Najm, Youmna Zein, and Carole Mudabber, along with magistrates Marleine al-Jarr and Jad Maalouf.
Najjar said the primary issue on the table was the “rights that Lebanese women married to foreigners can attain, and the rights of their children, and what Lebanese legislators can do” as they take into account the social problems faced by this segment of the population, as well as the principles of comparative law.
He said that he relayed a draft law on combating domestic violence to the Cabinet a few days ago, immediately after receiving it, and after an earlier draft “encountered turbulence” due to an overlap between sectarian-religious prerogatives and the proposed punishments.
Ofeish, who said she had followed the issue of women’s rights for more than 25 years, said that “a number of issues needed to be discussed.”
“How can a woman who has carried a baby in her womb for nine months, and then raised it, not have the right to give the baby her citizenship?” Ofeish asked. The minister acknowledged that there were “problematic matters” with amending the laws, and said that adequate “controls” would be introduced, so that any new procedures are in line with Lebanese law.
Noting that the foreign spouses of Lebanese men can gain nationality one year after their marriage, Ofeish suggested adding stipulations to the process, such as a language test, a longer waiting period, and the requirement that the couple have children.
“Lebanese nationality is very important and shouldn’t be granted so easily,” she said.
For his part, Baroud said that discussion of the issue has been portrayed as a matter of “privileges,” when instead it should be viewed as a basic right.
“This issue of women’s rights is a humanitarian one, before it’s a gender issue,” he said.
Baroud, a former civil society campaigner, added that under discussion was the issue of women passing on their nationality to their children, and not to their spouses.
Baroud said “everything can be treated through legal controls, and not by postponement [of the issue].”
Noting that neither the former or current Cabinet assigned priority to the issue, Baroud said that he resorted to pushing through practical measures, such as asking General Security to facilitate the residency paperwork of children of Lebanese women married to foreigners.