On October 19, the Council of Ministers of the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) issued a new decree stipulating that non-citizen children of Libyan women would be granted “all the rights recognized as Libyan citizens”. The decree mentions access to free education, free medical care and visa-free entry into Libya, but does not guarantee the right of children of Libyan women to obtain nationality like the children of Libyan men on an equal footing.
Without Libyan nationality, non-citizen children of Libyan women encounter difficulties, particularly in obtaining identity documents. Their civil and political rights are severely restricted, preventing them from voting in elections and excluding them from public sector jobs.
Obtaining Libyan nationality is governed by Nationality Law 24/2010 which defines a Libyan as a person born to a Libyan father or born in Libya to a Libyan mother and a non-Libyan father who is stateless or whose nationality is unknown. Otherwise, the law provides that children of Libyan women married to non-Libyans can obtain citizenship, but this is not automatic. These children can only apply for nationality after reaching the age of majority, unless their father is deceased or is legally deemed missing, and their parents and an official body approve the application. Children of Libyan women married to Palestinians cannot obtain citizenship.
Libyan women not only face discrimination related to their children, but also face obstacles in obtaining marriage licenses to marry non-Libyans after Libya’s Grand Mufti called on authorities to ban women from marrying foreigners in 2013. Libyan men have no restrictions on marrying non-Libyans, can automatically confer citizenship on their children, and their non-Libyan spouses can easily obtain it.
Libyan women facing others discrimination on matters relating to marriage, inheritance and divorce, and have no effective legal protection against domestic and sexual violence.
Discrimination based on sex is against the Libyan law of 2011 Constitutional pact which guarantees that “Libyans will be equal before the law […] without distinction based on religion, belief, language, property, sex, parentage […].” It also violates Libya’s international law obligations not to discriminate against women and their children.
Until the country’s legislative authority, the dysfunctional eastern-based House of Representatives, amends Libya’s nationality law, the new decree should be seen as an interim measure. It is now up to the authorities to guarantee effective protection of human rights, in particular by guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination for Libyan women and their children.