[The following is an English translation of a memorandum that was issued by a group of concerned Libyan citizens to the Constitutional Drafting Assembly on 20 August 2014 with respect to the right of Libyan women to pass on citizenship to their children. The introduction that precedes the memorandum was written by Hanan Ghosheh, one of the people involved in the drafting of the memorandum. The original Arabic memorandum is reproduced at the end.]
In the three years following the February 17 Revolution of Libya, the status of women’s rights has endured severe setbacks including unprecedented violence and crimes against the female population. The fact that seventeen percent of the seats in Libya’s first congressional elections went to women had initially inspired great hope for their future. However, this has proven to be a hollow victory as Libyan women in all public spheres from politics and civil society to the workforce and education have been exposed to increased discrimination and oppression.
From the removal of a young female presenter at the official congressional handover ceremony back in 2012 because her hair was uncovered, to the murder of prominent civil society and political activists, threats to the freedom of expression, movement, dress and safety of Libyan women have spiked significantly within this period. Amid the proliferation of armed militias acting with impunity and the present backdrop of warfare and political chaos, women are being further silenced and marginalized.
As it stands right now, all Libyans are deemed equal citizens before the law. However, there is a blatant contradiction to this statement as it is also stipulated that Libyan women who are married to non-Libyan men are barred from passing their Libyan citizenship to their children while the offspring of Libyan men with foreign mothers are automatically deemed Libyans. So by this very important measure, all Libyans, i.e. women, are actually NOT equal citizens while the children of those with foreign husbands are not even citizens at all.
Thousands of Libyan women are married to non-Libyans and are being disenfranchised by this law. If it continues unchallenged, children within the same extended family will have their property and inheritance rights, ability to operate businesses, residence status, etc. determined by the nationality of their father even if their mother is Libyan. On what rational basis should women who for whatever reason choose non-Libyan spouses be penalized while Libyan men are free to marry whom they desire without any negative restrictions?