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Egypt's Nationality Laws Are Sexist: Men Can Pass on Nationality to Their Wives, While Women Can't

Salma El-Daly  with her husband on a vacation in Upper Egypt

Salma El-Daly with her husband on a vacation in Upper Egypt

Egyptian Salma El-Daly had a rude awakening when she went to apply for a residence permit for her British husband in Egypt. While applying for his paperwork, she discovered that while Egyptian men could pass on their nationality to their wives, Egyptian women didn't have the same right.

The Twitter user and TV presenter poured out her anger on Twitter, vowing to fight the law until it is changed.

In today's world, there are about 230 million international migrants or people living outside their country of origin. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the one hand states everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, and on the other hand says they have the right to leave any country, including their own. Yet, Teresa Hayter commented that the declaration is silent on everyone's right to enter another country. And this opens the door for governments to come up with new restrictions everyday to close their borders in the face of people willing to relocate to there.

Although, refugees represent much less than 10 per cent of international migrants, media outlets consistently fail to correctly distinguish between economic migrants and asylum seekers or refugees. It is also more common to think of immigration as one way activity from the third world to the first world, and rarely the other way round, thanks to the media.

El-Daly shares her story on Twitter:

The Egyptian nationality law that gives men the right to give their nationalities to their foreign wives, and denies the same right to the Egyptian wives, is an unfaithful, unjust and tribal law.

Salma kept on addressing the issue on Twitter for many days, and vowed in another tweet, that she will not stop fighting for this law to be changed.

We decided to also ask her more questions and give her the chance to address the topic away from Twitter's characters limit.

Global Voices Online: Do you see that you and your husband's life will be easier in Egypt if he gets the Egyptian nationality?

Salma: My British husband and I decided to stay in Egypt for the time being because I don't want to leave my homeland country. I think that my life with my husband will be much easier if I can give him the Egyptian nationality. Also, I think the life of our future child will be much easier and they will be able to gain more rights!

GVO: If men were also not allowed to give their nationalities to their wives in Egypt, would you still fight for the same right for both genders? Or, your main cause is about equality?

Salma: Well, let's take it step by step. It's a clear inequality issue now, giving rights to men and taking them from women. The nationalities laws of the country are being sexiest! If both genders were not allowed to give nationality it would have been a different fight, a fight against the laws of purity!

El-Daly added that this is just one of many laws in Egypt, where women do not have equal rights. She gave the Khula Law as an example, in which a woman can seek a divorce from her husband after renouncing any financial claim on the husband and any entitlement to the matrimonial home. She commented: “You spend years and years in divorce court and stop your life, or we give you an option of giving up EVERYTHING but gaining your freedom! A very bad bargain!” On the other hand, there is another law where a divorced mother can keep her children until a certain age and the father is only allowed to see them for limited visits. She wondered: “How could this be good enough to build a healthy normal relationship between the child and the father?”

Finally, we asked her about her dream world and if there was anything else she would like to add. After jokingly announced that her dream world should have cheaper visas. She added:

I have a separate issue that I would like to address based on the hundreds of responses that I received on Twitter. Many of them where judging my future child's loyalty! Many of the responses claimed that children are usually loyal to their father's country of birth, and it really fascinates me how we think that loyalty must be inherited! Also, it was really sad to see that many people find inequality something very normal, and they pretty much support it! You will be surprised with the excuses they would give you.

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