Why non-marital children in the MENA region face a risk of statelessness

Published: 6/Jan/2015
Source: Harvard Human Rights Journal

By Betsy Fisher,

In 2013, an unmarried couple in Dubai was accused of gross child abuse for keeping their eight-year-old daughter from enrolling in school or receiving healthcare and immunizations. However, the couple denied that they intended to harm the child. Rather, they claimed that they were forced to keep the child at home because if the child was discovered, they would both be sent to jail for having a child out of wedlock. Arguably, these parents were more responsible than the dozens of unwed parents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who have simply abandoned newborn infants rather than face criminal penalties for bearing children out of wedlock. Laws that penalize adultery and discriminate against non-marital children and their parents, such as the criminalization of adultery in the UAE, risk the result of unregistered and even stateless children.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is host to many of the world’s largest chronic stateless populations: the bidoon of the Gulf, stateless Kurds in Lebanon and Syria, and stateless Palestinians living throughout the region. But the legal systems of many Middle Eastern countries also leave children of citizens vulnerable to statelessness.

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Themes: Discrimination, Gender, Statelessness
Regions: North Africa, Morocco
Year: 2015