A detailed report on the risks facing Libyan women married to foreign nationals was issued by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
The report illustrates the Libyan legislation’s arbitrary restrictions placed on this type of marriage, depriving husbands and children the right to the Libyan nationality.
The discriminatory nature of the Libyan legislation is also highlighted in the report as it grants the right to nationality to the family of Libyan men married to foreign nationals.
This discriminative law has further fueled community bullying and oppression of women married to foreigners as well as their families in Libya.
Titled “Libyan Women Married to Foreign Nationals: Oppression and Stateless Children,” the report reviews the most problematic challenges facing Libyan women married to foreign nationals. It also details the legal barriers with recommendations to state officials on how to counter these barriers.
Testimonies of a number of Libyan women subjected to discrimination by their communities because of marriage to foreign nationals are also recorded in the report.
The Libyan law stipulates that Libyan women married to non-Libyans must obtain the approval of a committee of the Libyan Ministry of Social Affairs if the husband is Arab, and must obtain a security approval from the External Security Service if the husband is not Arab.
Libyan officials cite national security as well as demographic structure concerns when justifying the act.
Unlike children of Libyan men married to non-Libyans, children of Libyan women are forced into complicated procedures that often lead to statelessness, unless they acquire the nationality of their father.
They also do not enjoy free education, health care, the right to nationality, or any civil or political rights.
The report concludes that the legal treatment of Libyan women in this regard violates international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Libyan authorities’ way of dealing with Libyan women married to foreigners is adding to the society’s stigmatizing view of women married to foreigners,” said Aroub Sobh, Euro-Med’s women’s adviser.
Libyan women married to foreigners find it very difficult to obtain papers and identity documents, because the official Libyan authorities refuse to deal with any Libyan woman who marries a foreigner, whether in relation to her husband or her children, unless she obtains the permission of the Ministry of Social Affairs, added Sobh.
As noted in the text of the Libyan law, marriage to foreigners does not mean Libyans do not need to obtain the approval of the Ministry of Social Affairs Committee. However, the difference lies in the implications of the distinction between children born to male or female Libyans.
Children born to a male Libyan enjoy full nationality and citizenship rights as if they were born to Libyan parents. They enjoy civil, political, economic and social rights. However, children born to a Libyan mother married to a foreigner do not enjoy these rights.
“Women and men must be equal in their rights to acquire and grant citizenship to their children,” said Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokeswoman. Articles 2 (a) and 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) affirm the need for equality between men and women.
They also stress the need for incorporating this principle into their laws, including equality in the right to acquire nationality and to grant citizenship to their children.
The Convention obliges States to grant women equal rights in terms of acquisition, retention or change of nationality, which is the same provision contained in The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (or The Maputo Protocol), which Libya has ratified.
Everyone shall have a right to nationality.
This was the essence of the text of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Article 24/3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Libya had ratified without reservations in 1970, stipulates that: “every child has the right to acquire a nationality” and Article 3 of the same Covenant sets out the duty of States to ensure the equal right of men and women to enjoy all civil and political rights enshrined in the Covenant.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Libyan authorities to amend the Marriage Law between non-Libyans and Libyans No. 15 of 1984 in order to guarantee the rights of Libyan women and their ability to choose their partner in accordance with the international conventions ratified by Libya.
Euro-Med Monitor also hopes that legislators in Libya will exert more efforts to ensure the rights of women in
Libya and their equality to men, especially with regard to their right to grant their nationality to their children.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the marriage of
Libyan women to foreign nationals, especially with the rising number of migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Libyan territory.
Almost a year ago, being aware of the rising phenomenon, the Supreme Judicial Council of Libya instructed the legislative and executive authorities to intervene by developing restrictive legislation of Libyan women marriage to foreigners.
Justifying their move, the Council considered this marriage dangerous to the demographic composition of the Libyan society and a threat to the national security of the Libyan state.
Even before this move, Libyan women had never been given the right to choose their husbands under several legal and social restrictions.
Over the years, the marriage of Libyan women to foreigners has been one of the most sensitive and complex issues in Libya, attracting a divergence of views within the state and the community alike.
The structure of the tribal community has been reinforced as a result, citing cultural and social reasons for the sensitivity towards this kind of marriage.
On the legal level, for women and men wishing to be married to a non-Libyan and have a marriage contract, they have to obtain the approval of a committee from the Ministry of Social Affairs if the husband is Arab. However, for Libyans married to non-Arab foreign nationals, they have to obtain the permission of the External Security Service.
Unlike male Libyans married to non-Libyan wives, female Libyans cannot pass on their nationality to their children, except in exceptional circumstances and after undergoing complex procedures that often result in children becoming stateless if their mothers fail to pass on Libyan nationality to them.
These children also do not enjoy free education or healthcare like children born to Libyan fathers.
Furthermore, their right to citizenship is denied, not to mention their political rights, thus contradicting international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On the social level, the law has encouraged the Libyan society’s stigmatizing view of women married to foreign nationals. They are called names, abused, sometimes assaulted, and their families are forced to leave the place where they live.
In addition, Libyan women married to foreigners find it very difficult to obtain papers and identity documents, because the official Libyan authorities refuse to deal with any Libyan woman who marries a foreigner, whether this has to do with the women, their husbands or even their children.
In this report, we examine the main challenges and obstacles facing Libyan women married to foreigners. We also investigate the legal obstacles and provide testimonies of a number of Libyan women who have been persecuted, discriminated against, abused and humiliated by their families and communities because of their decisions to marry to a foreign national.
Through this report, we aim to draw the attention of international bodies to this issue, especially the United Nations, in order for them to work with the Libyan government to amend the laws and to improve the community’s view of women married to foreign nationals.
This is possible by conducting awareness and training programs to support Libyan women married to foreign nationals, address their societal and law-related concerns.
Also, by releasing this report, we aim to provide a useful contribution to civil society organizations in Libya as well as to academic and human rights institutions, hoping to understand and convey the heart of the problem and contribute to its solution legally and socially in accordance with Libya’s obligations under international human rights law.
continues in part 2
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor is a youth-led independent, nonprofit organization that advocates for the human rights of all persons across Europe and the MENA region, particularly those who live under occupation, in the throes of war or political unrest and/ or have been displaced due to persecution or armed conflict.