Bahrain Civil Society & Government Discuss Achieving Women's Nationality Rights at Global Campaign Conference

February 16-17 the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights held the Gulf Regional Conference on Citizenship Laws: The Right of Women to Confer Nationality to Their Children in Manama, Bahrain, in partnership with Bahrain Women Union and Equality Now and with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR). The goal of the conference was to mobilize support and action to reform Bahrain’s nationality law, so that women have the right to confer their nationality to their children, in line with international human rights law. Currently, Bahraini women may only pass their nationality to their children if the father is stateless or unknown. Bahraini men may pass their nationality to children. Bahraini women are not permitted to pass their nationality to foreign spouses, a right also reserved for men.

Bahrain panelThe 60+ participants represented a wide range of Bahraini civil society and government entities, including parliament, the Ministries of Justice and Social Affairs, Shura Council, Supreme Council of Women and National Institution of Human Rights. Activists from six other Middle East-North African countries also participated – with Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates represented – in order to share opportunities and challenges for advancing women’s nationality rights in the region. Two UNCHR representatives from the Gulf regional office joined the conference, highlighting the importance of children having access to their mother’s nationality. The Egyptian participant, who was heavily involved in that country’s successful reform campaign that resulted in women’s right to confer nationality to children, shared lessons learned from her experience, providing participants with strong examples of effective advocacy strategies.

Over the course of the week, the Global Campaign and Bahrain Women’s Union conducted side meetings with key stakeholders, including a strategy session with regional civil society representatives and meetings at parliament and the National Institution of Human Rights.

During a meeting with the chair of the sub-committee on women and children, Roua Al-Hayki, she expressed support for reforms to enable Bahraini women to confer their nationality to their children and agreed to back reform efforts in the coming months.

The Global Campaign is now working with national coalition members inside Bahrain, including Bahrain Women Union and the Bahrain Nationality Campaign, to support the reform effort.