LIBERIA – A non-governmental organization, Church Aid Inc. (CAI) under the banner “Liberia campaign for equal citizenship” in collaboration with the National Law Reform Commission and support from the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (GCENR) based in New York, USA has climaxed a two-days awareness and sensitization sessions on the Gender Equality Nationality Laws.
GCENR is based at the headquarters of the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) in New York and is led by Ms. Catherine Harrington who is also an Associate Director of the WRC.
The awareness which seeks to bring to an end, gender discriminatory nationality laws provided a clearer understanding of the amended Alien and Nationality Laws of Liberia including its social implications for ordinary women, was climaxed on Saturday, November 26, 2022, at the New Water in the Desert Church in Brewerville, Montserrado County.
Providing an overview, the former president of the Liberia Council of Churches and Chairman and CEO of the Church Aid, Bishop Kortu K Brown intimated that the session provided strategies for the sensitization, consultation, and engagement with National stakeholders in pursuing amendments in the Nationality Law.
“Liberian women who bear children outside of Liberia by non-Liberian fathers must benefit from the same rights and protection that Liberian men who bear children outside of the country to non-Liberian mothers, enjoy. There has to be equality in the nationality laws respecting both men and women”
He added that the primary objective is to promote Nationality as a basic right, end childhood statelessness, and as well as reform the gender-discriminatory nationality laws of Liberia.
Bishop Brown stated that some of the Nationality Laws of Liberia have been “Gender discriminatory” given that it only provides protection for children who are borne by Liberian men outside the country to become citizens and not Liberian women. A law he wants Liberian women to kick against strongly because it is in violation of article 28b of the Liberian constitution.
Representing the National Law Reform Commission was the Chairperson, Cllr. Boakai A. Kanneh spoke about the seven (7) categories of citizenship in Liberia including citizenship by sight, blood, marriage, naturalization, adoption, and derivation, amongst others that the Legislature augmented during their amendment of the Alien and Nationality laws of the country in August 2022.
He wondered whether some aspects of the amendments stood the Constitutional test of Article 28b of the Liberian constitution which states: “Any person, at least one of whose parents was a citizen of Liberia at the time of the person’s birth, shall be a citizen of Liberia; provided that any such person shall upon reaching maturity renounce any other citizenship acquired by virtue of one parent being a citizen of another country.”
The learned counselor who spoke on the theme: “Discussions on the New Alien and Nationality Law on Citizenship as Amended through 2022” further quoted Article 2 of the Liberian Constitution which states that “the constitution is the supreme and fundamental law of Liberia and its provisions shall have binding force and effect on all authorities and persons throughout the Republic. Any laws, treaties, statutes, decrees, customs, and regulations found to be inconsistent with it shall to the extent of the inconsistency, be void and of no legal effect. The Supreme Court, pursuant to its power of judicial review, is empowered to declare any inconsistent laws unconstitutional”
The participants who came from three (3) regions of Liberia including western, central, northern, and Monrovia resolved that (1) there is a need for greater awareness of the amended alien and nationality laws to ensure that the rights of women and children are protected, and (2) that the equal gender protection rights under the law including the amendment be maintained irrespective of whatever Constitutional test the amended law could face in future. Many Liberians are worried that with the rejection of the Referendum in December 2020 on the amendment of article 28b, a resolution of the Legislature can amend the such constitutional provision.
Church Aid Inc, CAI, runs several programs on behalf of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church bordering on relief, Advocacy, food security, adult education, health, youth empowerment, child welfare, and a series of campaigns on Statelessness, Equal Nationality Rights laws, Birth Registration, etc.
As a part of its awareness of birth registration, CAI has issued in consort with the Ministry of Health, World Council of Churches, LRRRC, etc., more than 8,000 birth certificates since 2016.
Meanwhile, the CAI called on the national government and other partners to provide a clearer understanding of Liberian nationality laws so that the laws are clear to most women who should benefit from them.