Groundbreaking Arab League declaration heightens global momentum to end gender discrimination in nationality laws
Source: European Network on Statelessness
By Catherine Harrington, Campaign Manager, Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights
Amid the tragedy and uncertainty of today’s global challenges, there have been several important developments in the fight for gender equality in the past year. Importantly, these wins do more than advance gender justice; they help to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges we face today. From the reform of rape laws in Jordan and Lebanon, to the banning of child marriage in Malawi, women’s long-awaited right to drive in Saudi Arabia, the increasingly international #MeToo movement to combat gender-based harassment and violence, Iceland’s new pay equality law, and women’s marches around the world, demanding equality and rejecting misogynist political leaders; women and men are demanding an end to discriminatory laws and practices, and creating a more just, secure, and peaceful world as they do it. This is especially true of the fight to end gender discrimination in nationality laws, which has seen momentum for reform building in multiple regions, and notable progress achieved in the past year.
Following decades of tireless advocacy by women’s rights organizations in the Middle East-North Africa region, the League of Arab States is now joining the call for gender-equal nationality rights. In partnership with the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, the UN Refugee Agency, UN Women, and UNICEF, the Arab League convened government and civil society representatives in October 2017 to discuss the benefits of gender-equal nationality laws and lessons learned from recent reforms in the region. This convening, and its ambitious outcome document, served as the foundation for last week’s Ministerial Conference on Belonging and Identity, organized by the League of Arab States, UNHCR, and the government of Tunisia. By the close of this historic event, the Arab League endorsed a groundbreaking Declaration (Arabic version), which urges all Member States to enact reforms to achieve equal nationality rights for women and men. In the region with the highest concentration of countries that deny women the equal right to pass their nationality to their children and spouses, this is an especially promising development.