Arab women should have the right to marry foreigners and pass their citizenship on to their children, a charter launched in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday read.
The Arab Charter of Women’s Rights aims to ensure Arab women’s rights are upheld across the Middle East and North Africa. It was drafted by Arab Parliament, the legislative body of the Arab league that includes the GCC, Levant and countries across Africa.
The charter comprises 25 articles that tackle issues from mandatory education and healthcare to work opportunities and free services for new mothers. It will serve as a guideline for member states with an aim to inform legislation.
“I hope that launching this declaration serves as a deterrent against claims regarding women’s status in Arab societies,” said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Tolerance, on behalf of Sheikh Fatima bin Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation, as he launched the charter on Tuesday.
He called on representatives from the member states to study their country’s legislation and determine any changes that need to be made to ensure women’s rights are met.
“We are in an age where every individual is capable of making change; every man and woman has the freedom to learn and work, and I call on you all to let the woman be part of this and contribute to achieving peace and development in our societies.”
On marrying men with a different nationality, the charter says an Arab women should have the right to retain her citizenship. Should she wish to acquire her husband’s nationality, she should have the option of restoring her original nationality in case of divorce or his death.
The charter also touches on the nationality of children with parents from different countries. It says women should be able to pass their citizenship to their children. Typically, in the Middle East, children inherit their father’s citizenship.
Jasem Al Naqbi, a member of the legal and human rights committee at the Arab Parliament and the UAE’s Federal National Council, said the Emirates grants UAE citizenship to the children of Emirati women married to non-Emirati men in cases when the father died or the couple divorced.
He said the reason this only applied after divorce or death was to not contradict UAE law that says children can only inherit their father’s citizenship.
“Also, in the law of the father’s country, it could say that children must follow their father’s citizenship, so there won’t be an overlap of laws this way,” he said.
The charter explains that prior to applying for citizenship on behalf of a child, the mother and father’s national laws must be considered.
But Mr Al Naqbi said it was possible for a woman still married to her non-Emirati husband, to apply for her citizenship to granted to her children “if the father and the children apply together as a family. And I know a number of cases who applied and got it.”
Member states are expected to sign the charter during the next Arab League meeting. Signing it, however, does not oblige participating countries to change their laws to abide by the charter.
“It is a charter for all Arab parliaments to take as a guideline while shaping their legislations,” said Mr Naqbi.
Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, chairwoman of the Federal National Council, said the charter took two years to make and was equally proposed and drafted by the member states.
“The UAE was taken as a model [while drafting the charter] in empowering women and making decisions that guarantee their rights.”