Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Citizenship law for Emirati women sets good example

The presidential decree granting citizenship to children of Emirati mothers married to foreigners not only empowers women in the country, but could also inspire similar moves in the region.

On the occasion of the UAE's 40th national day, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, announced a decree granting citizenship to children of Emirati mothers married to foreigners. This monumental step for Emirati women will now allow them to pass their UAE citizenship to their children once they are of legal age.

This decision was the first of its kind in the Emirates, as well as in the Gulf region as a whole. In the 1970s, Sheikh Zayed, the first President of the country, did offer blanket citizenship to many people of mixed parentage, and there have been case-by-case approvals since then. But Sheikh Khalifa's announcement was the first time that the policy was enshrined in law.

This decree may have several positive implications, one of which may be a domino effect in the neighbouring GCC countries. The announcement has spurred constructive dialogue in the region regarding the issue of citizenship for children with non-national fathers, with rights groups and academics alike discussing the effects of such a move.

Many countries in the Middle East and North African region allow women carrying citizenship to pass these benefits on to their children regardless of the father's nationality. This is true of all the North African countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt) as well as Yemen and Iraq.

In some of these countries, however, the process is not always straightforward. Lengthy bureaucratic processes and conflicts with other laws create delays, and may sometimes result in those seeking citizenship to give up even before attaining it.

Even though this is not a recent development (the first country in the MENA region to pass such a law was Tunisia in 1993), some countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the countries within the GCC have yet to emulate laws granting women the ability to pass citizenship to their children.

Some of these countries however, do make exceptions to provide social benefits and even citizenship in some instances to children with non-national fathers. These cases however, are few and far between, as no formal laws exist that directly address the issue at hand.

Another positive outcome of this announcement in the UAE is the further empowerment of Emirati women, putting them on an equal footing with their male counterparts. This decree now matches citizenship laws that previously applied exclusively to Emirati men, whose children gained citizenship irrespective of the spouse's nationality.

This decree will allow Emirati women to make informed decisions about marriage, their children's future and residency in the UAE.

This will also allow children eligible for citizenship, once they are of legal age, to avail themselves of benefits such as government subsidised health care, education and social benefits. This may also mean that they could be eligible for scholarships and employment aimed at Emiratis, increasing their opportunities in academia and industry.

Earlier this year, The National reported that there was a rise in the number of Emirati women marrying foreigners. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the numbers rose 15 per cent from 643 to 737 cases in the period between 2009 and 2010. If the numbers follow this pattern, the decree will prove to be one aspect in addressing the current demographic imbalance in the country.

This is a particular issue of concern in the UAE, where it has been projected that the national population will dwindle from currently one fifth of the entire population, to approximately 10 per cent by 2015, a demographic anomaly by any standards. While offering citizenship to children of Emirati mothers is not the only solution to addressing the demographic imbalance, it is definitely a positive step in the right direction.

Another recent directive from Sheikh Khalifa, stated that Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, is to form a committee to determine specific criteria for granting citizenship to children of Emirati women married to non-nationals, which is indicative of the decree being put into motion.

While the criteria for eligibility have yet to be determined, and the process is itself entirely novel, it is yet another positive step towards providing equal opportunities to women in the United Arab Emirates.

 

Huda Sajwani is an Emirati researcher on gender and public policy in the UAE

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 An tenant in the Al Barsha area of Dubai has been sent a non-renewable contract by the landlord. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Dubai landlord refuses to pay back Rera fees after losing rent case

Keren Bobker helps a tenant who wants to know how to reclaim his RERA case fees and who has also been sent a contract with a “one-year nonrenewable” note.

 A Brabus Mercedes 6x6 Sports Utility Vehicle is readied for display during Auto China 2014 in Beijing, on April 20. Adrian Bradshaw / EPA

In pictures: Auto China 2014 exhibition

Leading automakers have gathered in Beijing for the kickoff of China’s biggest car show, but lacklustre growth and environmental restrictions in the world’s largest car market have thrown uncertainty into the mix. More than 1,100 vehicles are being showcased.

 A customer looks at a large mock-up of videogame console Game Boy.  Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP Photo

Nintendo’s Game Boy at 25: hand-held legacy lives on

Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks its 25th anniversary Monday with the portable device’s legacy living on in cutting-edge smartphone games and among legions of nostalgic fans.

 Ashish Nehra of Chennai Super Kings bowls to Kings XI Punjab at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

Hard-hitting Chennai not deterred by opening loss in IPL

But some questions remain about the team's attack ahead of Monday's match against Delhi Daredevils in Abu Dhabi, writes Osman Samiuddin.

 A projectionist takes a break in the projection room at Ariana Cinema in Kabul, Afghanistan. Going to the movies, once banned under the Taliban, has become a popular form of entertainment in Kabul, but women and children rarely take part. All photos by Photo by Jonathan Saruk / Reportage by Getty Images

Afghan cinema: Forbidden Reel

The lights go down and the projector whirls into action as Sher Mohammed, 35, begins his routine, bouncing back and forth between two projectors, winding reels, and adjusting the carbon arc lamps inside the projectors.

 Business class seats inside the Emirates Airbus A380. Chip East / Reuters

In it for the long haul: flying 16 hours with Emirates to LA

Our executive travel reviewer tries out the business class offering on Emirates' longest A380 route - and finds time passing quickly.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National