Rights of Saudi women to pass on citizenship to their children

Traditional, local, and cultural factors play a key role regarding women treatment in a given society. Many international reports showed violations of women’s rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in which they highlighted multiple types of suffering experienced by women as a result of what they called backward practices and policies. In fact the place of women in Saudi society remains that of a marginalized second class citizen. The male guardianship system continues to barricade Saudi women into the sidelines of life in Saudi Arabia, requiring them to obtain authorization from a male figure, usually husband or father, for common activities such marriage, divorce…

The recent decades, in the Arab world in general, have seen increased attention to women’s issues. The international community and the civil society increased pressure to bring justice to women and to support them. This concern was clearly reflected at both official and civil levels in Saudi Kingdom. Saudi Arabia was a part of these changes, it began the implementation of the programme of reforms announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who pledged to open up and eliminate the hardening. He had issued a series of resolutions on lifting the social embargo on Saudi women, allowing them to take up jobs previously reserved for men, driving and lifting certain restrictions on women’s travel.

Saudi Arabia was the only country that required women to live under the supervision of a male guardian. Despite the loosening of the guardianship system, in February 2018, women in Saudi Arabia still require permission from their guardian to travel, marry and even obtain certain medical, legal and residential services.

Through its ratification of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 2001, Saudi Arabia assumed the obligation to take action to end discrimination against women in all its forms. … However, Saudi Arabia “does not consider itself bound by paragraph 2 of article 9 of the Convention” granting women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children. It reflects its reservations that are incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.

Saudi national legislation continues to deny women the right to pass nationality to their children, violating the international law which obliges governments to take appropriate measures to address such abuse.

There are 13 countries in the Middle East that denying women the equal right to pass nationality to their children. While women activists from other Arab countries have successfully achieved this step, such as Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, the Emirates and Iraq,  However, Saudi women continue to claim and struggle for this right.

This has made the situation pretty complex for thousands of children born to Saudi mothers and non-Saudi fathers. Many of these children reside in the kingdom but have to apply for residency just as any other expat would. 

Given that the country implements the kafala system, these kids cannot obtain residency permits in the country unless they are sponsored by a Saudi national. Usually, they’re sponsored by their mothers, but if she passes away, another Saudi sponsor must take that role.

The Saudi woman has to sign a statement that her marriage with a foreigner did not necessarily mean he or their children would have the right to be granted the Saudi citizenship. The new regulations call for the establishment of a committee tasked with looking into all applications by Saudis to take foreign spouses.

Sources state that children of Saudi women and foreign fathers cannot inherit property. The children of foreign fathers and Saudi mothers do not automatically obtain nationality as well.   the laws were amended to give both sons and daughters of Saudi women the right to become Saudi citizens if they met seven requirements,” but that one of these, the need for the “mother to prove that her paternal grandfather was or is Saudi” has proven to be “difficult to meet and that “even those who have met all of the seven requirements have still not been granted Saudi citizenship.

Children of foreign fathers and Saudi mothers cannot be employed in the public sector but they are allowed to work in private sector.

Further pressure should be put on Saudi Arabia authority, by international community and local human rights activists, in order to take significant steps to end government sanctioned gender discrimination by amending their citizenship laws and giving women the ability to pass their citizenship to their children.

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