Middle East & North Africa

Middle East & North Africa

The Middle East-North Africa region is the region with the highest concentration of gender discriminatory nationality laws. Roughly half of the 27 countries that deny women equal rights to pass nationality to their own children are in the MENA region.

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Algeria is the only country in the region with equal nationality rights for women and men.* However, the past decade has seen a number of significant reforms in several MENA countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. These countries, with the exception of Iraq, now join Algeria in granting women equal rights to confer nationality to children, though continue to deny women the right to confer nationality to foreign spouses, a right that is reserved for men. Iraqi women may confer natioanlity to children born in the territory though are limited in their ability to confer nationality to children born outside the territory and are also prevented from confering nationality to spouses. 

Gender discrimination in nationality laws is one of the primary causes of statelessness in the region, in addition to causing a number of other human rights violations.

Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar deny women the right to confer nationality to their children and spouses in all circumstances. Other States, including Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Arab Emirates deny women the right to confer their nationality to children in most circumstances, but maintain some exceptions, such as when the father is stateless or unknown.

Syrian women's inabilty to confer nationality to their children combined with the massive displacement resulting from the conflict, has resulted in a situation where a generation of Syrian children born abroad are at risk of being stateless. Many Syrian women refugees, separated from their husbands, lack documentation to prove the paternity of children born abroad - with paternity being the only route to acquiring nationality. 

Women’s rights organizations across the region have been campaigning for equal citizenship rights for over a decade and have advocated for this right as part of broader efforts to achieve gender equality and more robust democratic political systems. 

 

 

* Algerian Muslim women are banned from marrying and therefore confering nationality to men of other religions, a restriction not imposed on Algerian Muslim men.