Somaliland’s citizenship laws must be revised

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Somaliland celebrated the 25th anniversary of its declaration of independence with a parade in the capital city of Hargeisa on May 18, 2016.

THT-If a woman loses her citizenship, she loses many other rights as well, including her job, the right to vote, and her property, among other things, so this law is very concerning for women.

Despite the fact that some provisions of the Somaliland Citizenship Law (Law No: 22 of 2002) are not used because of the lack of birth certificates and proper data management for non-Somalilanders, it is a law that was initiated by the Ministry of Interior, passed by the parliament, signed by the president, and entered into force twenty years ago, and the people of Somaliland have only recently felt the consequences.

This law, which specifies the type of citizenship a person can obtain, whether by birth or through other legal means, has been widely criticized by Somaliland residents, particularly women.

The Somaliland Constitution, in Article 4, defines: Any person who is a patrial of Somaliland being a descendant of a person residing in Somaliland on 26th June 1960 or earlier shall be recognized as a citizen of Somaliland.

Article 1 of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness also defines that a contracting State shall grant its nationality to a person born in its territory who would otherwise be stateless. Such nationality shall be granted:

The article 2 of the Somaliland citizenship defines that a Somaliland citizen by birth is anyone whose father is a descendent of persons who resided in the territory of Somaliland on 26 June 1960 and before

This law is ambiguous and violates women’s rights because it allows a woman to lose her citizenship if she marries a foreign man. A foreign woman who marries a Somalilander male, on the other hand, is automatically granted Somaliland citizenship¹.

The law is in violation of Somaliland’s constitution, because the constitution grants citizenship to all citizens, men and women, whereas this law divides citizens into men and women and takes citizenship away from those to whom the constitution grants citizenship, thus discriminating against some women.

This law further discriminates against women by denying citizenship to those who marry a non-Somalilander and allowing citizenship to those who marry a Somalilander, implying that women’s citizenship is contingent on whom they marry.

This law also renders some of Somaliland’s young children stateless, contradicting international efforts to eliminate statelessness. It also goes against international law, which prohibits people from being stateless. According to the United Nations Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness which aims to prevent statelessness and reduce it over time and establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality. It requires that states establish safeguards in their nationality laws to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life.

Having numerous skilled and qualified citizens is beneficial to a country’s development. A large population of people of various ethnicities, experiences, and knowledge could have contributed to the country’s development. Rather than developing supportive legislation for such people, this act exiles its own citizens.

Traditional elders and religious leaders argue that this Act is in keeping with Islam because women are not permitted to marry non-Muslim men, but men are permitted to marry non-Muslim women.

The term “male alien” as used in this Act refers to anyone who is not a Somalilander, regardless of religious affiliation, so even men from neighbouring Somalis are covered by this law.

If a woman loses her citizenship, she loses many other rights as well, including her job, the right to vote, and her property, among other things, so this law is very concerning for women.

As a result, this law needs to be amended, and women should play a key role in doing so, so that it can be beautiful and protect all citizens, regardless of gender.

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¹ Article 9 of the Somaliland citizenship Act.

(1)  Any female alien who marries a male (Somaliland) citizen shall acquire Somaliland citizenship and, unless she has renounced it, shall retain such citizenship even after her divorce.

(2) Any female (Somaliland) citizen who marries a male alien shall lose her citizenship if she accepts her husband’s citizenship.

Timacade, Yousef Ahmed
Professionally, he is a lawyer with an LLB, an LLM in International Law, and a Master’s degree in Executive Management.
ytimacade@gmail.com
yousefnxl@aol.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Horn Tribune editorial policy.

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