By Frances Guy
Thursday, December 16, 2010
December 10 was International Human Rights Day. The Lebanese League for Women’s Rights demonstrated Downtown. Why? For a change in the Nationality Law. Think about it. The right to pass on your nationality to your child is a basic human right. In a world governed by states and state governments you need to have an identifiable nationality otherwise you are a paperless, stateless person without rights. Nearly 200,000 people in Lebanon today have no nationality. That’s a lot in a country of about 4 million people. A Lebanese woman does not have the right to pass on her nationality to her children. That is simple discrimination and in contravention of a number of international conventions.
On those grounds alone we should all be fighting for change. But this position of principle hides the human facts.
Imagine the situation: you are the child of a Lebanese mother, but a foreign father and that father has since left or died. You were born in Lebanon. You have never lived anywhere else. Your father can’t renew your nationality anymore. You have to re-register every year as a foreigner. You have problems getting into school, problems getting health insurance. Later in life, getting into university is complicated. Some jobs are forbidden to you. But in your heart you are Lebanese. You don’t want to live anywhere else. You can’t live anywhere else. But you are not recognized as Lebanese. You are effectively stateless. You have no rights.
The UN Development Program tried to raise a campaign for change in 2009. In Lebanon, changes in nationality get tied up with Palestinian issues. But the statistics show that relatively few Lebanese women marry Palestinians and Lebanese men who marry Palestinian women can pass on their nationality.
So come on … Let’s do it. Let’s change this discriminatory law. Other Arab countries have. Why can’t Lebanon?
Frances Guy has been British ambassador to Lebanon since October 2006. This article was originally posted on her personal blog: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/guy/