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Secularism is a Women’s Issue



Tuesday 25 May 2010, by siawi2

MANAMA — Bahraini women married to foreigners have vowed to step in during parliamentary elections to be held this year to pressure the government to amend in the nationality law.

During a meeting between the Bahraini women married to foreigners and representatives of the Nationality Campaign, a panel of eight women was formed to use power of their vote to get the law amended.

They warned of staging a boycott of the election if their demands were not met. The women decided to coordinate their efforts through the panel of eight of them to visit election campaigning sites, mainly tents erected in neighbourhoods to push for Bahraini nationality for their children similar to the children of male citizens married to foreigner women.

Around 2,000 members, including women and their children are registered with the Nationality Campaign which has been formed by a group of women’s societies to fight for amendment to the nationality law for equal rights of male and female citizens. More unregistered families are understood to be suffering in silence because of the discriminatory legislation.

Representative of the Nationality Campaign Dr Wajiha Al Baharna told the women to unite and coordinate in all their activities, in order to pressure the bodies concerned mainly the legislative authority to amend the law.

Children of Bahraini men married to foreigners get Bahraini nationality on their birth and their wives get the same after five years of marriage.

But the Bahraini women are deprived of such rights and their children are only given residence permits because of their Bahraini mothers, while male children have to get work permits after the age of eighteen. Some of the women who attended the meeting said that they had to quit their jobs to be allowed to get commercial registerations and visas for their sons. Some of the women revealed their plans to migrate to other countries where there is no gender discrimination legislation.

Dr Al Baharna told the women not to lose hope and said that Bahrain is not the only country in the Arab world with discriminatory nationality law, as only five Arab countries allow women married to foreigners to pass their nationality to their children.

She reminded them that after years of struggle the law 35 was passed in 2009 that gave children of Bahraini mothers and foreign fathers exemption from government fees.

She hoped that the coming election will be a good chance to pressure the bodies concerned to amend the law.

The women decided also to coordinate their efforts in attending almost all election campaigns, as well as attracting supporters to speak about their demands. They promised to back election candidates who include the amendment to the law in their election manifesto. After the election, these women, through the newly-formed panel and the campaign, will pressure those who will make it to the parliament to fulfil their promises.

Source: Khaleej Times via WUNRN, 23 May 2010