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The Bahraini woman, always in the background

Sitting inside a mosque, in every prayer Eisa Umm asks for the possibility to transmit her citizenship of Bahrain to her son.


La mujer Bahraini - Photo Wikimedia CommonsShe worries because if the current situation prolongs, a very difficult future awaits her. Like any other Bahraini woman, Eisa lacks the legal support to pass her nationality to her children, as in other countries in the Persian Gulf and the Arab world.

Eisa Umm was married to a citizen of another country, lived with him in Saudi Arabia and they had a son, but she became widowed and returned to Bahrain to be close to the family.

“We are facing difficulties and challenges, because of the effects of the law, my son is a foreigner,” she told the Bahrain Gulf News briefing.

Bahraini citizens enjoy benefits such as housing delivery, loans, social assistance, free education and voting rights, but lacking them, Eisa’s son is at a disadvantage.

“He works as a bus driver, but we pray because he does not get sick or needs social benefits,” he explained.

La mujer Bahraini Wikimedia Commons 30Eisa knows that under these conditions, her child will never have enough to form his own family, a natural desire of every mother.

For Dorriya, another Bahraini woman, life was not easy either, because her 50-year-old son never recieved any benefit by law, as her father of another nationality abandoned her without officializing the son’s papers.

Saba Al Asfoor, an activist with the Bahrain Women’s Union, said that the suffering begins the moment a woman from that Persian Gulf country marries a foreigner.

“The Constitution clearly stipulates that men and women are equal, but makes clear that a Bahraini married to a foreigner can pass on his citizenship to the son and not the women,” notes Asfoor.

Eisa knows that under these conditions, her child will never have enough to form her own family; a natural desire of each mother.

For Dorriya, another Bahraini woman, life was not easy either. Her 50-year-old son never enjoyed any benefit by law, as his father of another nationality abandoned her without officialising her son’s papers.

La mujer Bahraini Wikimedia CommonsSaba Al Asfoor, an activist with the Bahrain Women’s Union, said that the suffering begins the moment a woman from that Persian Gulf country marries a foreigner.

“The Constitution clearly stipulates that men and women are equal, but makes clear that a Bahraini man married to a foreigner can pass on his citizenship to their child but not women,” says Asfoor.

A legal adviser to the Supreme Council for Women in Bahrain, Mohammad al-Masri, pointed out that the Government is in favour of changing that backward legislation, but it is Parliament that must amend it. The council works to raise the status of women and empower them politically, economically and socially, although it is only lavished within the spirit and limits of the Constitution and the law.

“It is up to the heads of parliament and nongovernmental organizations to convince the representatives and members of parliament, of the upper and lower houses, to support the initiative to amend the Citizenship Act,” said Al Masri during a recent forum on the status of women In Bahrain.

La mujer Bahraini - Photo Wikimedia Commons 1According to lawyer Mohammad Rabi, the amendments to the Citizenship Act came to Parliament, but were not fully debated, only measures in the health sectors were adopted, he said.

“The Citizenship Act (Bahrain) dates back to 1963 and there is a need to update it and allow women to transmit nationality to their children,” said the lawyer.

By 2009, the foreign wives of Bahraini nationals and children born to foreign mothers and fathers had access to the health and education services of all citizens.

They were also exempt from paying taxes corresponding to residence permits. According to Al Masri, more than 3,500 children born to Bahraini mothers and foreign parents received citizenship from 2006 to 2014, thanks to a decree of King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa.

But the Supreme Council for Women considers that the battle for gender equality lies in Parliament.

Last April, a lower house committee rejected a proposal to allow women married to foreigners to pass on their nationality to their children.

La mujer Bahraini - Photo Wikimedia Commons 4The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense, whose representatives emphasized that the subject of the concession of the citizenship must be strictly controlled, pronounced themselves against the amendments to the law, as well as the National Security Committee.

In other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the same Bahraini legislative approach is followed.

The female sector remains in the background in these countries. (PL)

Photos: Wikimedia Commons / Labeled for reuse –  (Translated by Shanika Whight – shanikawhight@hotmail.co.uk)

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