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As the Rule-of-Men Reigns Supreme on Capitol Hill, Liberians Move to Enforce Equality, For All

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Imagine that a nation, established to serve as an asylum from the most grinding oppression, would enact and seek to retain a discriminatory law that says its female citizens, including its current president, attorney general, two justices of its supreme court, and about 14% of its legislators cannot pass citizenship to their children born abroad.

 

Imagine further that a draft bill to strike this discriminatory law has been stalled in the legislature for more than two years.

One would expect to find the foregoing in a hypothetical. This, however, is not a hypothetical. It is real: taking place in Africa’s oldest republic.

As amended on May 9, 1974, Chapter 20, section 20.1(b) of the Aliens and Nationality Law of Liberia reminds us of an era when the rule-of-men reigned supreme on Capitol Hill. While echoing the constitutional rights of Liberian men to pass Liberian citizenship to their children born abroad, this discriminatory Chapter purports to deprive Liberian women of their constitutional rights to pass Liberian citizenship to their children born abroad. This is an egregious affront to the citizenship clause of Article 28 and the equal protection clause of Article 11(b) & (c) of the Liberian Constitution.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, supported by Article 28 of the Liberian Constitution which states that “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,” has called on members of the 52nd National Legislature to strike this discriminatory law off the books. Why are they failing to act?

It seems supporters of the status quo either do not understand the supremacy clause of the Liberian Constitution, want to ignore, or want Liberians to believe the government can enforce a law that purports to abrogate a constitutional right, particularly when the right in question is being asserted by an overseas-based Liberian. There is a stopping point to all this madness. And that is the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.

Article 28 of the Liberian Constitution grants both Liberian men and women the right to pass Liberian citizenship to their children born at home and abroad, and we are laying the foundation to once again challenge the erroneous notion that a legislative act can override a constitutional provision.

We struck blows to the erroneous notion that denied large numbers of Liberians the right of citizenship. We struck blows to the erroneous notion that denied Liberian women the right to vote. In the coming months, we will file a petition with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia, requiring the Government of Liberia, represented by Attorney General Christiana Tah, to defend a law that purports to prevent Liberian women, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Attorney General Tah, Associate Justice Gladys Johnson, and Associate Justice Jamesetta Wolokollie from passing Liberian citizenship to their children born abroad.

By Alvin Teage Jalloh, Esq /Email: ateage@gmail.com

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