Passing citizenship is a right, but some countries treat it as a male-only privilege through the implementation of sexist and outdated nationality laws. A number of countries in the MENA region still don’t allow women who marry foreign men to pass on citizenship to their children. They can’t pass it to their spouse either.
This week, after years of activism, Iran’s Guardian Council approved an amendment to a law that previously denied women the right to pass on citizenship. Women in the country can now grant their children citizenship without any obstacles. Children born in Iran to Iranian women and foreign fathers previously had to live in the country until they reach 19 years of age before applying for citizenship.
According to Human Rights Watch, the approval from the council was the last step needed to make the reform a reality. The law was approved by parliament earlier this year and was awaiting approval from the constitutional panel.
Iranian men’s citizenship is automatically given to their offspring — despite who they are married to. Applying for citizenship wasn’t even an option for women and their children up until recently.
According to HRW, the newly-amended law “does not equalize access to citizenship completely” as Iranian women would still need to apply for nationality. It is not an automatic process as it is for men
The law, which is pretty common in the Middle East, is a “legacy of the 19th century Franco-Belgian constitutional principles that influenced the region’s legal systems,” according to The Independent.
Iran now joins Egypt, Tunisia، Morocco, Iraq, and Yemen in reversing the outdated nationality law that discriminates against women. Countries like Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait have yet to follow suit. The UAE is caught in the middle as the Gulf nation has been making reforms to laws governing women’s right to pass on nationality. However, children born to Emirati women and non-Emirati fathers are still not “automatically” entitled to citizenship.
Research by HRW revealed that such laws – despite the country where they are applied – can affect children’s access to healthcare, education, housing, and employment opportunities.