Liberia Urged to Fight for Women’s Rights

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A cross-section of Liberians in the Diaspora, with_web.jpg

“Liberia must swerve away from hypocrisy in the fight for women’s rights, as the opposite is currently applied in the 1973 Aliens and Nationality Law, as amended in 1974,” a group of Liberians in the Diaspora has said.

At the end of the recent Dual Citizenship Convention in the United States, a statement signed by its chairman, Emmanuel S. Wettee, said Liberia produced the late Madam Angie Elizabeth Brooks, the first African female President of the United Nations General Assembly and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected President and a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, hence, women’s issues must be of paramount importance to Liberians.

The statement said on July 17, 1984, Liberia became a party to the Convention on The Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women of 1979 (CEDAW).

“By accepting the Convention, Liberia committed itself to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms,” the statement said.

“Liberia,” it said, “decided to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in the legal system. Abolishing all discriminatory laws and adopting appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women.”

The statement further said Liberia accepted to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

However, the statement accuses Liberia’s current 1973 Alien and Nationality Law as amended in 1974 of legally discriminating against women.

Quoting the American Bar Association in an analysis made in 2009, under the title, Analysis of the aliens and nationality law of the Republic of Liberia, (p. 16) said noted the following:  “The subchapter on Naturalization or Restoration to Citizenship of Special Categories of Aliens of Chapter 21 presents several concerns regarding gender-based and racial discrimination.

“Section 21.30 permits the naturalization of female spouses of Liberian citizens who are of Negro descent and otherwise conform to the requirements of Section 21.1.

“However, the subchapter does not permit naturalization of male spouses or persons not of Negro descent. The law should be amended to avoid discrimination on the basis of gender, in light of Liberia’s obligations under ICCPR Article 23(4) requiring the state to take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage.

“It should be particularly noted that, as a woman does not presently have the right to pass on her citizenship to her children, this effectively denies Liberian citizenship to the children of a union between a Liberian woman and a non-Liberian man, in violation of Liberia’s obligations under CEDAW Article 9(2). This provision may also affect a child’s right to acquire a nationality pursuant to ICCPR Article 24(3).

“Section 21.31, which states that a child born outside Liberia to alien parents or to a citizen mother and a non-citizen father may become a citizen of Liberia through the naturalization of the father, also raises concerns.

“This is incompatible with CEDAW Article 9(2), and also incompatible with contemporary norms of jus sanguinis, which allows the citizenship to be passed on via either the mother or the father.”

A group of professional and successful Liberians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, often described as in the ‘Diaspora’ have been urging the current leadership to amend the current laws that deny them citizenship, after having acquired same from the countries they are residing.

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