Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Constitutional Jurisprudence

Published: 1/May/2017
Source: UN Women & International IDEA

This exploratory global study of constitutional jurisprudence on gender equality and women’s empowerment, conducted by the Just Governance Group as part of a project partnership between International IDEA and UN Women, reveals a series of important findings regarding the current state of lived realities for women living under constitutions which purportedly provide for equality between men and women and prohibit discrimination based on gender.

Extract from Chapter 4.1: Right of mother to pass nationality/citizenship to children:

Five decisions (four from Egypt in 2015 and one from Iraq in 2006) relate to the right of women to pass on their nationality to their children.  A woman’s ability to pass on her nationality to her children is limited in approximately 27  countries, many in the MENA region (Theodorou  2014).  These decisions reflect the purely legal, but foundational, concept of citizenship as it relates to the interaction between the state and its citizens.


In 2011, the Arab Spring led to constitutional reform in various countries in the MENA region. It was an opportunity for women to mobilize to reshape women’s constitutional rights. In Egypt women played a notable role in transforming the Constitution (Zambrana 2016). The Egyptian Constitution of 2014, article 6, states that: ‘Citizenship is a right to anyone born to an Egyptian father or an Egyptian mother. Being legally recognized and obtaining official papers proving his personal data is a right guaranteed and organized by law. Requirements for acquiring citizenship are specified by law’.

In the May 2015 decision of the Second Circuit Administrative Court, Hazam, Shayma’ and Noora Abu Zettah v Minister of Interior and Head of Passports, Immigration and Citizenship, three Gazans born in Egypt appealed the decision of the ministry to refuse them Egyptian nationality. The mother of the children is Egyptian and the father Palestinian. The petitioners based their appeal on Law 154 of 2004, which modified Law 26 of 1975. The court stated that legislation has provided for equal opportunity to access Egyptian nationality for children from the mother or father in section 3 of Law 154 of 2004. The court also admonished the ministry, stating that there is an assumption that public administration will be a noble institution that will enforce the law fairly, and it had not.

The same court resolved another case on the same date in May 2015. In Abeer Zeinadin as custodian of daughter Elin Halawani v President of the Republic and Minister of the Interior, the Passports Department refused to issue Egyptian citizenship to a minor daughter. Abeer was married to a Syrian in 1995. She lived in Alexandria, Egypt, prior to moving to Syria, where she gave birth to Elin. The family then returned to Alexandria but her husband divorced her in 2000. The father died in 2008, making the mother the sole custodian of her daughter as a result of a decision by a Sharia court in Syria. Subsequently, Abeer married an Egyptian man and had another child with him. When she applied for citizenship for Elin, the department refused the application without giving a reason. The administrative court found that the ministry had violated article 6 of the Constitution of 2014 and Law 154 of 2004. The ministry was ordered to pay the appellant’s costs.

In the case of Hamid v Minister of Interior et al., the Administrative Court ruled in favour of a man born to a Palestinian father and a Jordanian mother. The mother had been given Egyptian nationality in 2004 based on a ministerial decision before Law 154 of 2004 came into effect. The ministry refused to accept his application for nationality. The claimant appealed to the first committee mandated to hear an appeal, but that committee rejected his application. The claim was successful, in form and substance, at the second level of appeal—the State Council, Committee of State Commissioners, Court of Administrative Jurisdiction. His application for Egyptian nationality was approved based on his mother’s Egyptian nationality and article 6  of the Constitution. The ministry was ordered to pay costs.

In the fourth Egyptian case, Mohammed Abdullah v Minister of Interior and Head of the Department of Passports, Immigration and Citizenship, the child of an Egyptian mother was denied nationality. The court reviewed the criteria for the ministry granting nationality in article 4 of Law 26 of 1975, the modifications in Law 154 of 2004 and article 6 of the Constitution. In this case the ministry was also ordered to pay costs.

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Acquisition by children, Discrimination, Gender, Naturalisation and Marriage
Regions: Egypt
Year: 2017