Women in Lebanon may be allowed to pass citizenship onto their children in the near future according to a proposed amendment to a 1925 citizenship law.
The current citizenship law was issued under the French Mandate of Lebanon and states that an individual is considered Lebanese only if born to a Lebanese father. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil presented the new bill to the cabinet last week, proposing the extension of citizenship to the offspring of Lebanese women married to foreigners. At a recent news conference, Bassil highlighted the need for Lebanese women to be given equal rights to men, saying that “our constitution rejects discrimination based on gender.”
This recent proposal, however, is not for all Lebanese women. Lebanese women married to “men from neighboring countries” such as Palestine or Syria will still not be able to pass on their citizenship to their children.
In the aftermath of the many wars in the region, particularly the past Israeli-Arab wars and the current Syrian Civil War, Lebanon has absorbed a few million refugees. These refugees, who are mostly Muslim, have altered the sectarian balance characteristic of Lebanon. Many Lebanese—specifically the country’s Christian population—do not want to recognize people of Syrian or Palestinian origin as Lebanese citizens because it would shift more power towards the Muslim population and away from the Christian population. The Christian population used to be the majority religious group, but changing demographics have given the Muslim population a slight majority.
Some activists in the country are speaking out against the law because they believe that all Lebanese women in the country should have the right to pass on citizenship. They argue that the section of the new proposal surrounding Lebanese women married to foreigners from neighboring countries is discriminatory.