Egypt: Impact of Law and Strategies Leading to Change

August 28, 2006

In Egypt, women’s organizations were successful in their campaign to amend nationality laws. Prior to 2004, women who married foreign men were unable to confer citizenship on their children. Without the right to citizenship, the children of women who married foreigners were essentially foreigners in their own country. They were denied low cost access to education and health care. In addition, they could not hold government jobs. Long waiting times in the citizenship application process caused interrupted periods of work and further financial difficulty for many who were already in poor financial circumstances.

Women’s organizations were not satisfied with partial measures. They convened to discuss the legislative and human aspects of the nationality law and concluded that the solution for the problem could not be partial, but should ensure full equality between men and women.

When the campaign was launched in 2002, the government moved to facilitate naturalization procedures for children of women married to foreigners, with the exception of children with special needs and children of Palestinian women. However, this did not indicate legislative change.

Unsatisfied, they took the following actions:

  • Utilized the media and organized awareness-raising meetings based on the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
  • Collaborated with many parties, including community institutions, media personalities, a representative from the Ministry of Social Affairs, university professors, representatives from the National Council for Women, female members of the People’s Council, a representative from the Ministry of the Interior, as well as women whose children were being denied Egyptian citizenship.
  • In collaboration with the Women Development Association organized a major roundtable discussion.

In July 2004 the nationality law was reformed. This allowed Egyptian women married to non-nationals the right to pass on their nationality to their children, given that they meet certain requirements. The focus on awareness-raising, education, and mobilizing many different actors, pressured the government to reform the law. Now, women’s groups, especially the Forum for Women in Development (FWID), are continuing to utilize these strategies in their work monitoring implementation of the amendments.

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