Togo Convening Increases Momentum for Nationality Law Reform
This February the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights convened a national workshop on Achieving Gender Equal Nationality Rights in Togo, in partnership with national coalition member Questions des Femmes and Campaign steering committee member Equality now. The workshop brought together over 60 participants from Togolese government, civil society, and media, as well as international experts. (An overview of gender discrimination in Togo’s nationality law is included below this article.)
Over the course of two days, participants enhanced their understanding of gender discriminatory provisions in Togo’s nationality law and developed plans to support the realization of reforms, in line with commitments made by the Togolese government in 2011. Participants also benefitted from sessions facilitated by Senegalese activist Soukeyna Diallo, who shared lessons learned from Senegal’s successful nationality law reform process, which resulted in a new gender-equal nationality law passed in 2013. Other international experts presented on the linkages between nationality rights and other human rights issues, including: a representative from Equality Now’s Africa Regional office, who discussed regional initiatives and governmental agreements to advance gender equality and citizenship rights in Africa; representatives from UNHCR’s regional and national offices, who highlighted the need to ensure gender equal nationality rights in order to eradicate statelessness in the region; a representative from UNICEF’s Togo office, who discussed the relevance of gender equal nationality laws to upholding children’s rights and welfare; and the Global Campaign's manager, who provided a global overview of the issue and momentum for reform.
The first day of the workshop, participants discussed contradictions between the Nationality Code and the Constitution, Children’s Code, and Persons and Family Code – many learning about the discriminatory provisions and their impact for the first time. During the second day, participants learned about Senegal’s reform process, including the role of civil society and female parliamentarians in driving reform, and then developed action plans to advance reforms in Togo.
Following the workshop a press conference was held with media representatives from national and private Togolese TV, radio, and newspapers, which contributed to significant media coverage of the national workshop. The week’s activities closed with an hour-long national television program "Je Dis Femme!!" devoted to the issue of Togolese women’s nationality rights. The weekly program, whose host participated in the workshop, included a conversation with the President of Questions des Femmes, the Head of the Nationality Directorate, a Togolese woman affected by the discriminatory provisions in the Nationality Code, and Ms. Diallo. The program also included a call-in/sms component, allowing individuals from across the country to submit questions to the guest speakers.
The workshop and related activities underscored the strong interest of government and civil society members to work together to realize the government’s commitment to enshrine gender equality in a new Nationality Code without delay. The Global Campaign looks forward to working with national and regional partners in the months ahead to support reform efforts.
"Etre femme au Togo, c’est valoir moins qu’un homme. Cette situation est causée par la loi sur la nationalité. Ainsi, dans ce pays, un homme a le pouvoir de faire bénéficier de la nationalité togolaise à son épouse étrangère, et ce dès le jour même de la célébration du mariage. On estime au contraire que la femme togolaise, n’a même pas le droit d’épouser un étranger, puisque pour rien au monde la loi ne l’autorise pas à faire de son époux un citoyen togolais. Il s’agit là de la meilleure façon de promouvoir des rapports inéquitables dans le genre. Il est donc temps de mettre fin cette injustice faite à la femme togolaise et lui permettre à elle aussi, au même titre que l’homme, de faire bénéficier à son époux étranger, de la nationalité togolaise. Cela n’a que trop duré !" - Togolese woman married to a foreign man
"Togo - De la discrimination des femmes dans l’acquisition de la nationalité togolaise," Lomé Chrono, February 9, 2017.
"Togo / Pour l’acquisition de la nationalité, même droit pour les hommes et les femmes," Togo Top Info, February 9, 2017.
"Togo: Les femmes veulent conférer la nationalité aux hommes étrangers," Togo Tribue, February 10, 2017.
"Les Togolaises se battent pour l'égalité dans la transmission de la nationalité," Voice of Africa, February 12, 2017.
Overview of Gender Discrimination in Togo's Nationality Law:
The Nationality Code of Togo includes several discriminatory provisions that must be reformed in order to uphold the Togolese Constitution’s mandate for gender equality, as well as the State’s commitments under international human rights law. While the more recent Constitution and Children’s Code guarantee mothers and fathers' equal ability to confer nationality, the Nationality Code only permits mothers to confer nationality on children in cases where the father is stateless or his nationality is unknown. Though the Constitution takes precedence over other laws – and is understood to be applied along with the Children’s Code in practice – Togo’s Nationality Code must be reformed in order to avoid confusion by local authorities regarding parents’ nationality rights, and to remove other discriminatory provisions. Under the Code, Togolese men confer nationality on foreign spouses upon marriage, a right denied Togolese women. While the Nationality Code states that foreign men married to Togolese women have the possibility of becoming naturalized citizens, there is no evidence that this provision is applied in practice. The Nationality Code also states that foreign women who acquire Togolese citizenship through marriage lose their nationality in the event of divorce. However, the more recently reformed Persons and Family Code states that such women do not automatically lose Togolese nationality upon divorce, unless decided by a judge. In addition to the discriminatory provisions in the Nationality Code, there are other gender-discriminatory administrative procedures related to the acquisition of a “Certificate of Origin,” which is required to obtain a Certificate of Nationality in some circumstances. To acquire a Certificate of Origin one must prove their Togolese lineage on the paternal line, despite the fact that nationality can be acquired by the maternal line according to the Constitution and Children’s Code.