Bahrain Takes Steps Towards Greater Equality in Women’s Nationality Rights
Monday, July 13, 2009 1:15 PM

Bahrain’s Supreme Council for Women (SCW) has announced their decision to push forward a law that would allow women to pass their Bahraini nationality onto their children. The push to amend the law comes in conjunction with the start of a campaign led by the SCW to promote greater awareness of women’s rights across the country. In Article 18 of Bahrain’s own Constitution, all Bahraini citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, with no discrimination on the basis of gender, origin, or religion. However, some of Bahrain’s laws hold provisions that discriminate against women, and gender discrimination in society continues to be commonplace.

The SCW has proposed that to facilitate the new law, the Bahrain government should remove its reservation to Article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which it ratified in 2002. Article 9 of CEDAW states that:

  1. "States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality" and
  2. "States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children."

Bahrain’s adherence to Sharia principles was the reason originally given for its CEDAW reservations. But years of campaigning by women’s rights groups has led to a new awareness in the Bahraini government of women’s rights and the international perceptions of Bahrain. The Bahraini government has recently extended access to health care and educational services to foreign-born husbands and their children. While some Bahraini politicians are hesitant to extend citizenship rights to the children of Bahraini mothers due to fears over national security or upsetting the political and religious balance, other Muslim countries have recently amended their laws to allow women to pass nationality onto their children, including Egypt in 2004, Tunisia in 2005, and Morocco in 2007.

Lack of Bahraini citizenship makes life extremely difficult for the children of Bahraini mothers. They are unable to apply for passports or other forms of official identification, leaving them essentially stateless, yet unable to travel. Very few employers will hire non-citizens, and some social services are reserved for citizens. "Children of Bahraini mothers don't have the chance to be normal citizens, and they face a lot of difficulties when they go to hospitals or schools. They're not treated equally by government institutions," said Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. From: “Women in Bahrain to Lobby for Equal Nationality Rights,” All Headline News, The Media Line (13 July 2009). Over 2,000 families in Bahrain consist of Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers.

Compiled from: “Women in Bahrain to Lobby for Equal Nationality Rights,” All Headline News, The Media Line (13 July 2009); “Bahraini Women to Get Equal Nationality Rights,” Khaleej Times (13 July 2009); Hamada, Suad, “Stop Hating Your Children: Bahrain’s Nationality Law Leaves Many of its Children Stateless,” The WIP Internet News Service (23 May 2008); “Declarations, Reservations, and Objections to CEDAW,” United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW); “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,” DAW (1979).