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Coalition reaffirms goal to ensure women can pass on nationality to children


[6/16/2013 1:36:00 PM]

by Pascale Müller/ Jordan Times

AMMAN — Women's rights activists on Saturday reaffirmed their goal to “remove all gender discrimination from the Constitution” during a conference held by the "My nationality is my family's right” coalition.

The main issue that the coalition will continue to focus on is the right of Jordanian women married to foreigners to pass on their nationality to their children.

As it stands now, Jordanian men married to non-Jordanian women can pass on the citizenship to their wives and children, a right that is denied to women with foreign husbands.

The issue gained public attention when the campaign “My mother is Jordanian and I have a right to her nationality” — whose members are now part of the coalition — held sit-ins to call for granting women the right to pass on citizenship.

For most of the members, the target of the coalition is also linked to their private experiences.

"My country does not acknowledge that I am a full citizen and I feel very bad about it. I see it as a major discrimination against me," said Aroub Soubh, spokesperson of the coalition, who is married to an Iraqi.

Soubh's children, like many others, are not allowed to obtain the Jordanian passport and remain stateless if they cannot take their father's nationality.

Women have a hard time getting visas and residency permits for their foreign husbands and children, who face daily problems with school admission, as well as security clearances and medical reports they have to present every year.

Unofficial estimates put the number of affected individuals at around 500,000.

For Soubh this is no longer a private matter.

“I have been working on this issue for nine years now," she said, “with no improvement in sight.”

Established in February 2013, the coalition will focus on raising awareness, with four committees in legal framework, advocacy, media and research as its cornerstones.

“We still have to do more to get information out there," Aida Essaid, a member, said in her keynote address at the conference.

The coalition, consisting of 11 civil society organisations and 18 individual members, including women's rights activists, lawyers, journalists, researchers and consultants, aims to address and inform the public as well as lawmakers.

Two major points are cited by those who oppose granting women the right to pass on citizenship.

One is of a “political nature”, with government officials repeatedly arguing that granting citizenship to family members of women married to foreigners, namely Palestinians, would support “Israel’s ultimate plan of creating a substitute homeland for Palestinians in Jordan”.

Another popular counter argument is the belief that Jordan cannot afford to give these families citizenship.

However, studies on cost benefit analysis conducted by the King Hussein Foundation's Information and Research Centre and presented at the conference show that the "government will benefit rather than face an increase in costs from granting residency for children of Jordanian women and foreign husbands”.

The benefits include an increase in tax revenues, a higher consumption rate and a potentially increasing development of human capital leading to greater economic growth, the study said, citing experiences from major immigrant countries like Canada and the US.

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