“Statelessness and Gender Discrimination: The Case of Lebanon”

“Statelessness and Gender Discrimination: The Case of Lebanon”

There is no official data as to the exact number of stateless persons in Lebanon, their profiles, categories, origin, or reasons for their statelessness. In addition, there is no official policy to reduce and prevent statelessness in Lebanon.
Frontiers conducted a mini survey in 2011 to determine the volume of statelessness and the profiles of stateless persons. The survey excluded Palestinian stateless refugees estimated around 400000, and children of migrants who are in irregular situation in Lebanon. It focused mainly on those living in Lebanon for decades and/or their ancestors have Lebanese links. These are mainly linked to the newly created State of Lebanon in the early 1920s after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

The survey estimated there are around 60000 stateless persons in Lebanon. These are divided into two broad main categories: 1) those who never registered in the census of 1932 and hence did not obtain the nationality; 2) those whose parents or grandparents obtained the nationality but failed to register their marriages and/or birth of their children. For both categories, statelessness is today being inherited from generation to generation.  
The survey also showed that 30% of the male stateless are married to Lebanese women; and more than 45% of the stateless children are born to Lebanese mothers.  Yet, despite that the wife/mother has the Lebanese nationality, the husbands and children remain stateless because she cannot confer her nationality to her family due to gender discrimination in the Lebanese Nationality Law.  

The Lebanese nationality law of 1925 Article 1(1) considers as Lebanese every person born of a Lebanese father (paternal jus sanguine ground).
The same law allows women to pass on nationality to children in 2 exceptional cases: Article 2 allows single mothers to pass on nationality to their children, as do single fathers. The child would be registered on the records of the parent who recognizes them earlier. Also, a naturalized Lebanese woman may pass the Lebanese nationality to her minor children if their foreign father is deceased, as per Article 4.
Lebanon is signatory of all main human rights conventions that establish the principle of non-discrimination on any grounds. However, Lebanon, upon ratification of the CEDAW entered serious reservations on Article 9, paragraph 2, related to the equal right of women to pass their nationality on to their children, and on Article 16, paragraphs c, d, f and g, related to equality within marriage.  


This gender discrimination in the Lebanese nationality law prevents cases of children born to Lebanese women and stateless men father from being resolved and perpetuates statelessness.  These children inherit the stateless status of their fathers and do not inherit the Lebanese nationality of their mothers.  This discrimination affects thousands of such children today.

Frontiers caseload include 3218 stateless individuals born to a mother who was Lebanese at the time of their birth.
In one case, the mother is Lebanese since birth, the father is naturalized Lebanese, the seven children are stateless. The father was registered in the “Qayd Dars” category, a special stateless population treated by the Lebanese authorities as foreigners of “unidentified nationality”: unlike other stateless, they have special records and can register their vital events. The father did not register his marriage in these records. As a result, when he was naturalized in 1994, he did as single, although he was married since 1990 and had one child. After acquiring the Lebanese nationality, the father did not register his marriage and consequently his children born after the naturalization. He died in 2007, as a single person. The Lebanese mother is still as a result “single” on her records, despite the fact that she was married for 17 years and is widowed since 13 years and has seven children. The children are stateless, since they could not inherit their Lebanese mother nationality and could not benefit from their father’s naturalization.
The only solution for these stateless children was to submit a lawsuit for late birth registration, based on the acquired Lebanese nationality of the father. The Lebanese nationality of the mother has no effect here.

As per the sectarian personal status laws, the mother has no automatic capacity to file a lawsuit on behalf of her minor children. The father is the one who automatically has this capacity. Since the father is deceased, the capacity is transmitted first to the paternal grandfather then to the. This was the case of these children. The mother had to prove that her father in law is deceased, so that she could submit the lawsuit on behalf of the minors. After around 3 years, the lawsuit ended positively. However, it is still in the execution stage and the children are still technically stateless.
This shows that the gender discrimination enshrined in the Lebanese legal system is leading not only to statelessness, but also to complicating the access to solutions. An amendment of the nationality law provisions as well as to the Personal Status laws, lifting this discrimination, would contribute to both the prevention and reduction of statelessness.

A number of related draft laws were proposed in the recent years by Parliamentarians, Ministers as well as by the National Commission for Lebanese Women.  However, none was debated in the Parliament. Nevertheless, politicians opinions are made known, with a significant number thereof supporting women’s right to pass nationality – but do not reach the legislation level - and some disapproving. Back in 2013, the Cabinet assigned a ministerial committee to discuss a proposal to lift gender discrimination in nationality laws. This committee issued a negative recommendation, which coincided with Mother’s day, under the demographic and sectarian balance pretext that “prevail on the Constitutional principle of Equality”. Since, no public formal statement was made in this respect, and all proposals remain dead letter.