|06 October, 2017

Huge support for gender equality in Bahrain’s citizenship law

The #MakeADifference campaign calls on parliament and the Shura Council to approve amendments to decades-old legislation, so that Bahraini women can finally pass on their nationality to their children.

image used for illustrative purpose The shadow of a woman is cast on a wall of Al-Fateh Grand Mosque as she arrives holding a Bahraini flag at a pro-government rally in Manama February 21, 2012.

image used for illustrative purpose The shadow of a woman is cast on a wall of Al-Fateh Grand Mosque as she arrives holding a Bahraini flag at a pro-government rally in Manama February 21, 2012.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Bahrain - More than 2,500 people have so far backed a GDN campaign calling for gender equality in Bahrain’s citizenship law.

The #MakeADifference campaign calls on parliament and the Shura Council to approve amendments to decades-old legislation, so that Bahraini women can finally pass on their nationality to their children.

It was launched yesterday and a total of 2,565 people had signed the online petition as of midnight last night.

The initiative is supported by the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), Bahrain Women Union, Bahrain Young Ladies Association and Women’s Crisis Care International.

Those who have signed the Change.org petition, which can be found online at https://goo.gl/Q2iCF3, include Bahraini MPs and leading figures in the business community.

“I am glad to see the GDN taking up the cause and I support this campaign,” said parliament’s human rights committee chairman MP Mohammed Al Maarafee, who is among the signatories.

“I am sure my colleagues in parliament will support it too.

“We need to get this law amended in the final session (of parliament’s four-year term), as I believe it’s now or never.

“However, I wish my female colleagues – both in parliament and the Shura Council – would be more vocal in their support.

“I have received over 100 cases in my office, from both sects, in which (Bahraini) women were literally crying at the plight of their children who were denied their rights.

“I don’t know why we have to delay this amendment any further, as I see no cost in this.

“I represent the people and I am with them in this fight. I call upon all Bahrainis to join this campaign.”

Children of Bahraini women are currently denied citizenship if their fathers are foreign, but children of Bahraini men are automatically granted a passport – even if their mothers are from overseas.

An amendment to the 1963 Nationality Law, which would grant equal citizenship rights, is currently being reviewed in parliament and MPs are due to convene for the first time after the summer recess on Sunday.

However, campaigners fear it could be shot down after the foreign affairs, defence and national security committee – which is reviewing the proposed change – in July expressed concerns that it could encourage more Bahraini women to marry foreigners.

Businesswoman and activist Mona Almoayyed, who also signed the GDN petition, said the change was needed and would make a meaningful difference.

“I am so happy to see the GDN has taken a lead in fighting for a cause and I am all for it,” she said.

“I know many women and their children are so insecure and suffering because of this situation.

“I know of Bahraini mothers who have children aged over 30 living here all their life, yet enjoying no rights.

“All the more they are unable to settle in life, which is unfair.

“The change in the law will make a meaningful difference in the lives of these women.

“It is high time that decision makers realised this gap in the law is in violation of the constitution, which says the country treats men and women equally.

“I hope we achieve the goal.”

Concerns that MPs could veto a change in the law were heightened in July, when the vice-chairman of a parliamentary committee reviewing the amendment, Jamal Buhassan, said he believed it would not get approved.

Mr Buhassan said MPs opposed to the change were trying to “protect Bahraini women”, as well as preserve the country’s demographics.

However, it is not the first time demands for the law to be changed have been made.

In 2005 a nationwide campaign calling for equal citizenship rights was launched by a number of civil societies and, two years later, then parliament chairman Dr Khalifa Al Dhahrani pushed for the amendment. However, nothing materialised and in April this year Supreme Council for Women secretary general Hala Al Ansari criticised MPs who oppose the rule change, describing their objections as being “totally inconsistent with the evolution of Bahrain’s legislation”.

raji@gdn.com.bh

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