Bahrain: Women Campaign Against Biased Nationality Law
Monday, June 7, 2010 1:25 AM

Bahraini women pledge to lobby their national government to change its nationality law. The law grants only Bahraini men the right to pass on their nationality to their children upon birth. Foreign women who marry Bahraini men are granted citizenship after five years of marriage. However, the husbands and children of Bahraini women are not granted such citizenship; they permanently remain foreigners, and may receive only residence or work permits.

Foreign or stateless status often affects access to programs and governmental support. Women and girl children who experience situations of violence or harmful practices will be denied governmental resources, as well as diplomatic protection, due to their lack of citizenship.
Gender equality advocates argue these nationality clauses contradict the Bahraini Constitution's gender equality clause. These advocates created the Nationality Campaign to bring attention to this contradiction and lobby the Bahraini government to amend the nationality clauses. The Nationality Campaign consists of 2,000 activists who are fighting to have these clauses amended to provide for equal rights between the sexes. While the right of a mother to pass on her nationality to her children is established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many nations have reserved this right, arguing it conflicts with accepted religious and cultural beliefs.
Last week, members of the Nationality Campaign met with Bahraini women married to foreigners and created a task force and action plan. The action plan stresses coordinated efforts between individuals and organizations, as well as direct pressure on the legislative powers. Organizers draw upon the upcoming election to pressure elected officials to amend the law. The task force plans to visit election campaign sites to provide information and resources regarding the proposed amendment. Members of the task force also discussed participating in a boycott of the election in protest of the law.
Similar movements have been created throughout the region, as all but five nations have similar discriminatory nationality laws. From: Study on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Status of Women from the Viewpoint of Religion and Traditions, United Nations Commission on Human Rights (24 April 2009).