Egypt: Focus on Legislation

September 20, 2006

Basis for Reform

In 2004, Egypt granted children of Egyptian women married to non-nationals the right to citizenship, given that they meet certain requirements.

Women’s groups mobilized and specifically focused on reforming Articles 2 and 3 of the Nationality Law of 1975 to include:

  • Language which reads that the child born of an Egyptian father or mother should be granted full citizenship
  • Reduction in waiting time upon application from one year, to sixty days

Additionally, they requested a reduction in fees for application.

The Egyptian Constitution provided the basis for their argument, as it emphasizes equality between men and women in matters pertaining to citizenship. The Constitution, enacted in April 1923, Article 11, declares:

"The State shall guarantee the proper coordination between the duties of woman towards the family and her work in the society, considering her equal with man in the fields of political, social, cultural, and economic life without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence."

In addition, Article 40 states:

"All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnicity, language, or creed."

While the Constitution stated that women should have equal rights, the children of these women were denied the most fundamental of rights, that of citizenship in one’s own country.

Amendments

As a result of women’s campaign efforts in Egypt, the following amendments to Articles 2 and 3 of the Nationality Law of 1975 were made in 2004, which extended the scope of the law to be more inclusive of women.

Article 2 prior to amendment defined an Egyptian as:

  • The child born of an Egyptian father.
  • The child born in Egypt of an Egyptian mother and of a father of unknown or inexistent nationality.
  • The child born in Egypt of an Egyptian mother and whose family ties with his father were not legally proven
  • The child born in Egypt of unknown parents. The natural child is deemed born in Egypt, unless proven otherwise.

Article 2 was amended to state:

  • The child born of an Egyptian father or mother.
  • The child born in Egypt of unknown fathers. The natural child is deemed born in Egypt unless proven otherwise.
  • Any person holding another nationality besides the Egyptian citizenship should declare to the Minister of the Interior his wish to waive this nationality. As for the minor, the declaration shall be made by the legal representative, the mother, or the person in charge in case none of the two was present.
  • The minor deprived of the Egyptian citizenship pursuant to the abovementioned paragraph may declare his wish to recover it in the year following his majority.
  • The Minister of the Interior shall take a decision in accordance with the rules and dates specified for the implementation of the paragraph above.

Article 3 prior to amendment stated:

  • Shall be Egyptian the child born abroad of an Egyptian mother and of an unknown father or of a father of unknown or inexistent nationality, if he chooses the Egyptian citizenship within a year as of his majority by virtue of a notification sent to the Minister of the Interior after electing domicile in Egypt and provided the Minister does not object to his request within a year as of his receipt of the notification.

Article 3 was amended as follows:

  • The son of an Egyptian mother and of a non-Egyptian father born before the enforcement of the law should declare to the Minister of the Interior his wish to acquire the Egyptian nationality. He shall be deemed Egyptian as soon as the Minister renders a decision with this respect or after a year elapses as of the date of the declaration without a refusal by the minister.
  • Minors shall acquire the Egyptian citizenship, whereas adults shall follow the same procedures as above. If the son of an Egyptian mother and of a non-Egyptian father deceases before the enforcement of the law, children are entitled to acquire citizenship in accordance with the provisions of the two paragraphs above.
  • The minor shall declare his wish to acquire the Egyptian citizenship through his legal representative, his mother or the person in charge in case none of the two was present.

The amendments would allow these children to obtain a free education, as well as having access to health care, and other social services. However, the amendments have yet to be fully realized. Applicants for citizenship must meet certain requirements, such as proof of consistent residency in Egypt for at least ten years.

Problems in application of the reformed nationality law include:

  • The law is not being applied retroactively.
  • The denial of citizenship to children of Egyptian mothers married to Palestinian and Sudanese men.

The current goal of the campaign in Egypt is to address these issues and monitor the implementation of the reformed nationality law. They want to ensure that women and government officials are informed about the changes in the law. The Forum for Women in Development (FWID) is advocating for women who are denied their rights and bringing these cases to the attention of the courts. They are calling for retroactive application of the law.

When the law was amended in 2004, it was estimated that up to one million people would be able to gain citizenship. However, the numbers have not been nearly so high. Since 2004, approximately 17,000 individuals have obtained citizenship.

One reason for this has been the high cost of application. However, the Ministry of the Interior recently announced that applicants will not have to pay LE 1,200 in tax. This should substantially increase the number of applicants. Many, who could not afford the fees associated with application, may now be able to apply.

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