A new bill presented by Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil sparked controversy in the country, as it called for allowing Lebanese women married to foreigners to pass their nationality on to their children, excluding those married to citizens from neighboring countries, Syria and Palestine.
Bassil also equated women and men as the bill prohibited the granting of citizenship to the children of a Lebanese man married to a Syrian or Palestinian woman if she entered Lebanon as a refugee, justifying this clause by saying it aims to prevent their naturalization.
The new bill caused widespread criticism among human rights associations and a fierce campaign emerged on social media, which slammed the plan as “racist”.
Bassil said during a press conference held at his office at the Foreign Ministry that his initiative is aimed at achieving “equality between Lebanese women and men, based on the Constitution, international agreements and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”
The minister stressed that his bill “conforms to the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution that does not discriminate between Lebanese on the basis of gender, and is consistent with the preamble to the Constitution, which prohibits naturalization.” He stressed that the Lebanese government was committed to the right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians.
In a legal analysis of the new bill, former Minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar said: “At the political level, the proposal may be understood under fears of naturalization, but at the legal level, it may be contrary to the Constitution.”
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Najjar suggested that the draft-law be reformulated, “so it does not refer to discrimination between women and men and the nationality of those who marry, because that violates the principle of equality before the law.”
The foreign minister’s suggestion also raised a wave of resentment in the political and popular circles.
Legal expert and former MP Salah Honein told Asharq Al-Awsat that a Lebanese woman, married to a foreigner, should have the right to give her nationality to her children similar to the right of a Lebanese man married to a foreigner to pass citizenship to his children.