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Amended Citizenship Law:Reality or fiction?-.

By Dalia Al-Awqati- Special to The Star At the Arab Women's Summit in Amman in November 2002, Her Majesty Queen Rania announced that the Citizenship Law would be amended to give Jordanian women similar rights as men, i.e. to pass on their nationality to their children.- This amendment was viewed as a victory in the struggle for women's rights in Jordan.- -Citizenship in the father's country is a birthright of any Arab child.- In its original state, the law allows Jordanian men to pass their citizenship onto their foreign wives and children. The amendment, if enacted, would extend to Jordanian women the right to pass on their citizenship to their children of non-Jordanian husbands.- -Of the conditions related to the Queen's announcement, the most determining is the Jordanian woman's marital status.- Under the law, only divorced, estranged, or widowed women would be allowed to confer citizenship to their children.- -The citizenship law, as it stands, "differentiates between Jordanian citizens on the basis of gender," says Hala Al-Asef of the Jordanian National Commission for Women.- The Commission finds it important for such a law to be amended to ensure women gender equity and full citizenship rights.- The Jordanian Constitution is used to support this facet of the struggle for equality.- Article 6, Clause 1 states:- "Jordanians shall be equal before the law. There shall be no discrimination between them as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion."- According to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), a residency permit for the average non-Jordanian children requires medical reports, security clearance or a certificate of good behavior from the General Intelligence Department for all non-Jordanian members of the family.- In addition, it requires of students to present a letter from the educational establishment, showing that the only financial supporter of the concerned person is living in Jordan, evidence showing an income source capable of supporting the expenses of residency, and matrimony proof (copy of the marriage certificate) and the Family Book for the Jordanian's wife as well as a photocopy of both spouses' passport, provided that the application should be submitted by the husband himself.- This all adds up to several trips to the MoI in addition to other government and private sector buildings.- Rula Shaheen, a Jordanian mother of three, had to visit the MoI everyday for two months to extend her family's residence permit. "There's no specific department at the MoI concerning the children of Jordanian women for me to follow up with," she lamented.Humanitarian cases are customarily those of divorced, separated, or widowed Jordanian mothers.- The supporting system available to the children of a single Jordanian mother requires much of the same documentation, in addition to proof of the husband's death or couple's divorce, and the Jordanian mother's guardianship or custodianship deed for the children plus proof showing that the only financial supporter of the concerned person is living in Jordan as requested by the MoI.- While this adjustment is certainly a welcomed change, it still maintains a measure of instability and inconvenience for the already burdened single mother making it necessary for her to regularly negotiate the bureaucracy to renew residence permits.- Amneh Al-Zu'bi of the Jordan Women's Union told The Star that "reforming the citizenship law is very important in order to solve the humanitarian cases and problems in the lives of children born to Jordanian mothers and non-Jordanian fathers".- One of the humanitarian obstacles created by such a situation is the difficulty for the family to congregate in Jordan for too long and by taxing an already burdened family budget.- -Umm Ahmad is a Jordanian mother married to a non-Jordanian and working in the education field in Amman.- She said, "What matters is the environment and country that a person is raised in.- My children were all brought up here and consider themselves Jordanian, but the system does not consider them so."- Shaheen's children were also raised in Jordan. She said: "This is the only home they know. Baghdad is a place to visit only." Their residential security continues to be threatened due to changing residency laws.Umm Ahmad's children who were born and raised in Jordan lack citizens' rights, the most basic of which is education.- -Zu'bi concured that "education is one of the rights affected by the current citizenship law". The education law approved on Tuesday, July 25 granting the right to public education to all, groups the children of Jordanian mothers and non-Jordanians together.- This requires them to pay the same annual fees. The implications are such that families will have to start paying top tuition fees to educate their children.- Asef added that "such a law poses a big financial burden on the Jordanian woman and her family".- Umm Ahmad remarked, "Women and children's rights are important to the wholesome existence of a country. Children of Jordanian mothers have the same lack of rights as children of foreigners." -Umm Anwaar, a Jordanian mother and the widow of a husband from Gaza, has seven children between three and twelve years of age.- The only documentation provided to her children is a National Identification Card without a number.- The lack of number indicates that they are Palestinians from Gaza, automatically disadvantaging the holder.- She maintained, "In the future, this limits my children to unskilled labor and denies them a chance for improvement".- Her children have not been added to her Family Book, a document issued by the government and containing biographical information about each member of the family. Her family experiences a different kind of discrimination with regard to education.- Each of her children has a Gazan Travel Document, but nothing more.- -These laws pose another problem for the university-aged.- In their current status, the children of Umm Anwaar and Umm Ahmad would not be accepted into university because of their status as non-Jordanians competing for Jordanian seats.- For the more fortunate, they have to decide getting their university degree in Jordan or going abroad and risk losing their residency status.- For those who choose to go abroad, the loss of residency status makes it incredibly difficult to re-enter into the system they were once part of.- In the widower case, there is nothing to assure a Jordanian mother that her non-Jordanian children would be able to stay with her in the long term were the political climate of the country to change. Umm Ahmad would like to see a certain measure of security, especially for children under the age of 18, "They should be able to live proudly and without the worry of being deported," she complained.-Other challenges include that of registering a car and the lack of access to health insurance.- "This is a humanitarian case and things are not made easy.- My children don't have regular access to medical care because they don't have health insurance." She continued, "My son would not be able to buy a car and register it in his name".- According to Umm Anwaar, her children are not entitled to such rights because as Gazans they have no legal claim to Jordanian citizenship under the current laws.- -These difficulties facing Jordanian mothers, married to non-Jordanians, encourage Jordan Women's Union, Jordanian National Commission for Women, and other groups and individuals to support a favorable and just law that grants Jordanian women the right to confer citizenship.-Article 3(3) of Jordan's Nationality Law (No. 6 of 1954) declares, "Any child born of a father with a Jordanian nationality shall be Jordanian wherever born." A Jordanian woman is allowed to retain her nationality after marrying a non-Jordanian; however, Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians are not permitted to confer their citizenship on their children. Furthermore, the Law of Residency and Foreigners' Affairs (No. 24 of 1973) does not facilitate residency for foreign men married to Jordanian women nor to their children, even though this law grants foreign wives of Jordanian men preferential treatment.Amended Citizenship Law: Reality or fiction?-

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Aug 21, 2006
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