Madagascar Reforms Its Nationality Law, Guaranteeing Mothers’ Independent Right to Confer Nationality On Children

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights extends congratulations to the people of Madagascar, who have reached a milestone this week in the fight for gender equality for all citizens. On January 25, the government promulgated a new nationality law that guarantees the equal right of citizens, regardless of their gender, to confer their nationality on their children.

The fight to reform the nationality law has been a long effort led by women’s rights activists, including the Madagascar-based organization Focus Development, and affected individuals, who collectively made a concerted effort to heighten awareness of the significant harm caused by discriminatory nationality laws and the need for reform. The previous nationality law, established at the country’s independence in 1960, denied Malagasy women the right to confer nationality on their children and spouses on an equal basis with men. At the time of independence, this form of gender discrimination was widely entrenched in the laws of newly independent countries, and grounded in the discrimination embedded in the nationality laws of former colonial powers.

Mobilization for reform in Madagascar had also been reinforced by calls for reform by international human rights bodies, including the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which called on the government to remove all gender discriminatory provisions, in line with the State’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ratified by Madagascar in 1989. In 2015, the Global Campaign joined Focus Development, UNHCR, and the Equal Rights Trust, in convening parliamentarians, civil society, and affected individuals to further reform efforts. By the close of the convening, government leaders and parliamentarians committed to enact reforms to advance women’s nationality rights.

While there is much to be celebrated, the Global Campaign regrets this reform did not result in the eradication of all provisions that discriminate against women. The new law continues to deny Malagasy women the right to confer nationality on spouses, a right which is reserved for Malagasy men. The Global Campaign further regrets that this reform did not address those provisions that contribute to the perpetuation of a sizeable stateless population in the country.

As the work for gender equal nationality rights continues, the Global Campaign is greatly encouraged by this significant step towards the realization of legal equality between women and men. With now only 26 countries remaining that deny mothers the equal right to confer nationality on their children, the eradication of this form of discrimination is well in sight. Through the continued and tireless efforts of activists and government leaders championing gender equality, gender equal nationality rights can become a global reality in the years to come.