Global News

Somalia UPR Pre-Session Statement

Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights statement during the Universal Periodic Review pre-Session on Somalia: The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (the Global Campaign) is a coalition of international and national organizations that promotes gender equality in nationality laws, so that women and men can confer, acquire, change and retain their nationality on an equal basis. The Campaign includes a Steering Committee of Women’s Refugee Commission, UNHCR, Equality Now, Equal Rights Trust, and the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion. The World Council of Churches supports the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Right’s mission to end gender discrimination in nationality laws and is speaking today on behalf of the Global Campaign’s international coalition. 1. Plan of the Statement This statement focuses on continued violations of Somali women’s rights with respect to nationality and subsequent violations of the rights of their children and foreign spouses in Somalia in violation of international human rights law and the state’s human rights obligations and commitments to uphold international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). 2. Statement Gender Discrimination in Nationality Law A. Follow-up to the First Review Somalia does not grant mothers the right to confer their citizenship on their children. Under the 1962 Somali Citizenship Law only children of Somali fathers acquire Somali citizenship, regardless of the circumstance. The law also provides a pathway to citizenship for foreign spouses of Somali men, without providing these same rights for foreign spouses of Somali women. In addition, a foreign woman automatically acquires her husband’s Somali nationality at the time of marriage without regard to whether she might lose her nationality of origin as a result, and without specifically allowing her to decline Somali nationality, according to the English translation of the law. A foreign woman will also automatically acquire citizenship if she is the wife of an alien or stateless person who acquires citizenship. The impacts of gender discrimination in nationality laws can be far-reaching and can result in serious human rights violations and suffering for women and their families, including statelessness. In general, without citizenship, individuals may face severe restrictions on their access to fundamental rights. The inability of women to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses can put huge financial, psychological and physical strains on families, often resulting in an intergenerational spiral of destitution and depression. At Somalia’s first Universal Periodic Review, numerous States made recommendations pertaining to advancing gender equality and women’s human rights, including acceding to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and enacting legislation to provide full legal protection for women. The government accepted all recommendations pertaining to women’s rights and expressed its intention to ratify CEDAW, which specifically obliges governments to provide equality in nationality rights, as well as the CRC and other human rights treaties it had previously signed. B. New Developments since the First Review Since the previous review, the government has realized its commitment to ratify the CRC, which enshrines in Article 7 the child’s right to a nationality and to know and be cared for by his or her parents. Article 7 also stipulates that States ensure the child’s right to nationality in particular when the child would otherwise be stateless. CRC Article 2 mandates that State parties grant the rights enshrined in the treaty without discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on the sex or marital status of the child’s parents. Since the previous review the government has also taken steps to advance the ratification of CEDAW, which enshrines women’s equal nationality rights in Article 9. In 2012, the country adopted a new Constitution, which states that all citizens, regardless of sex, shall have equal rights and duties before the law, although this has yet to be formally enacted. Additionally, we understand there have been recent efforts to draft a new nationality law and are hopeful that this new law will ensure gender equal nationality rights. The current status of this bill and its timeline for potential passage remains unclear. The Global Campaign applauds these positive developments, while drawing attention to the urgent need for Somalia to enact reforms without delay to remove gender discrimination from its nationality law, in order to realize its obligations and commitment to ensure the equal rights of women and children. C. Recommendations Based on the human rights violations resulting from gender discrimination in Somalia’s nationality law, the following recommendations are made: Take immediate steps to amend/repeal all discriminatory provisions that prevent women from acquiring, retaining and transferring citizenship on an equal basis with men and ensure the effective implementation of the law. Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Fully promote, respect, protect and fulfil its obligations under international human rights law. In particular, ensure that its national laws, policies and practices fully comply with Articles 7 and 8 CRC, and with general principles of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in international treaties. Recognise the independent right of each parent to provide citizenship based on lineal descent to their children, and the right of both women and men to confer citizenship to their foreign spouse on equal terms. Ratify the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Support Gender Equal Nationality Rights

Gender discrimination in nationality laws results in significant and wide-ranging human rights violations, including: statelessness; obstacles to accessing education, healthcare and social services; links with gender-based violence, human trafficking and child marriage; political disenfranchisement; poverty and social marginalization. In addition to harming individuals and families, discriminatory nationality laws also hurt society as a whole in the 50+ countries that maintain them (the-issue/the-problem), by contributing to insecurity and hampering sustainable economic development. Since its launch, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (Global Campaign) has increased awareness of the costs of gender discriminatory nationality and catalyzed action to realize needed reforms at the national level. With your support, the Global Campaign is taking this momentum forward to the next phase. Activities in need of support in the coming year include: National/Regional Workshops Stakeholder Capacity BuildingIn many countries ripe for reform there is a lack of resources to support the strategic planning and mobilization of civil society and government allies needed to tip the balance for success. The Global Campaign conducts regional and national workshops with individuals representing government representatives, key civil society organizations, and political, community, and religious leaders. Each workshop includes the development of a time-bound road map for collaborative national and international action to advance equal nationality rights for women and men. The 3-4 day mission includes: • Mapping of the key stakeholders, allies and opposition with national civil society partners• Exchange with government and civil society representatives from a country that recently reformed its law• Training on the impact of gender discriminatory nationality laws and relevant international human rights law• Advocacy capacity building sessions, based on successful regional models of nationality law reform • Work plan development • Meetings with key stakeholders• Media sensitization • Press briefing Small Advocacy Grants for National-Level Interventions Small grants are provided to NGOs in order to implement advocacy interventions identified during national workshops. Advocacy interventions include: media engagement; direct outreach to government officials and political leaders; dissemination of informational material and advocacy messages; and other awareness raising activities. These small grants will support targeted interventions to engage government stakeholders and the public, resulting in greater awareness, attention and action. Middle East-North Africa Regional Conference on Lessons Learned from Successful Nationality Law Reform Campaigns The Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region has the highest concentration of countries denying women’s right to confer nationality to children. It is also the region with the highest number of reforms advancing women’s nationality rights over the past decade. Despite these achievements, leaders who secured these reforms and other regional stakeholders have not convened to discuss successful paths to reform and the significant positive impact of reforms on individuals, families and society-at-large. The Global Campaign is convening MENA government representatives and civil society in 2017 to facilitate the sharing of good practices and strategies from successful reform efforts in order to mobilize action further reforms for women’s nationality rights in the region. Additional funding support will enable the participation of a greater number of stakeholders from the region. Target Country Advocacy Brochures: The Law, International Obligations, and SDG ImpactDesigned to catalyze action by national decision-makers, country-specific advocacy brochures document: the status of the nationality law; implications for the realization of national Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets; and relevant obligations under international human rights law in target countries. Regional Advocacy Brochures on the Positive Impact of Recent Reforms Advancing Women’s Nationality RightsRegion-specific advocacy tools documenting the positive impact of reforms advancing gender equal nationality rights in the Middle East-North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Asia Pacific are needed to support ongoing reform effortsin the region. Published in local languages and English, these advocacy brochures will demonstrate the significant benefits of recent reforms in each region through profiles and personal stories of individuals who benefitted from reforms, as well as testimonies by government officials and other stakeholders. High-level event convening government and civil society leaders Each year the Global Campaign holds high-level events convening government and civil society leaders from target and champion countries to increase mobilization for gender equal nationality rights at the international, regional and/or national levels. Examples of such convenings include high-level events at the Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations Human Rights Council Sessions, and side events at regional meetings, such as ECOWAS, ASEAN, Arab League summits. For more information on supporting the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, please contact Campaign Manager Catherine Harrington at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Suriname’s amendment of gender discriminatory nationality laws an example to follow

The Draft Law on Nationality and Residency (“the Law”) passed by Suriname’s National Assembly on 10 July 2014 not only reverses decades of gender discrimination in nationality laws but will reduce the risk of statelessness. The Law brings Suriname’s nationality law in line with article 9(1) and 9(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), by giving women equal rights with men to pass on their nationality to their children and to acquire, retain or confer nationality if they get married or divorced. The reform of Suriname’s law was recommended by the CEDAW Committee in 2007, and also by Brazil and Mexico during the Universal Periodic Review of Suriname in 2011.

The Bahamas Commits To Achieving Full Equality For Women & Men In Constitution

The Bahamas could be first to reform nationality law since launch of Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights Bahamas Minister Griffin at UN High Level Event on Equal Nationality Rights, 10 March 2015 New York, March 16, 2015 The Bahamas Minister of Social Service and Community Development Melanie Griffin strongly stated that the government is “committed to achieving full equality in our Constitution for men and women,” specifically gender equal nationality laws. Minister Griffin made these statements at the March 10 High Level Event on Equal Nationality Rights, which took place during the first week of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at UN headquarters in New York. During this annual two week session, UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather to review progress made on achieving gender equality. This year’s CSW gave special attention to countries’ progress on the Beijing Platform for Action, in which governments across the globe committed to eradicating gender discrimination from all laws.

The Costs of Gender Discriminatory Nationality Laws

The Problem: Sex-Discriminatory Nationality Laws: Sex-discriminatory nationality laws are laws that deny equal rights to men and women to acquire, change, or retain one’s nationality or to confer nationality to one’s children or spouse. These laws can prevent children from being recognized as a citizen in their mother’s country, even when the child is born in that country. They can also prevent foreign husbands from obtaining their spouses’ nationality, even while that country grants nationality to foreign wives of male citizens. In some countries, a woman may lose her nationality because of the marital status. These laws result in numerous human rights violations and are themselves in contradiction to international law.

The Violence of Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws

Upon first glance, gender-based violence (GBV) and laws pertaining to citizenship may seem worlds apart. In fact, there are significant links between women’s nationality rights and GBV. During these #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, it is a good time to consider how gender discrimination in nationality laws contributes to violence against women and girls. Nationality laws determine the ability to acquire, change, and retain one’s citizenship, as well as the ability to pass citizenship to children and non-national spouses. Though traditionally the nationality of wives and children was based on the nationality of the husband/father, over the 20th century most countries reformed their nationality laws (and gave women the right to vote!), enabling women and men to confer citizenship on an equal basis. However, today 27 countries (the-issue/the-problem) still deny mothers the equal right to confer nationality on their children. Roughly 50 countries (the-issue/the-problem) maintain other gender-discriminatory provisions in their nationality laws, such as denying women the right to equally confer nationality on spouses, or stripping women of their citizenship due to their marital status. When children do not have the right to their mother’s nationality, they are at risk of being stateless, a status whereby no state recognizes an individual as a citizen.* UNHCR conservatively estimates that there are over 10 million stateless persons worldwide. In addition to being a leading cause of statelessness, these laws impact several forms of gender-based violence and result in other human rights abuses (the-issue/the-problem): Domestic Violence: Gender discrimination in nationality laws can increase the obstacles faced by women attempting to leave abusive marriages and protect their children from abusers. For example, in some countries, if a woman acquires another nationality through marriage with a foreign man, she may be stripped of that nationality upon divorce even if she resides in the country, potentially losing her ability to work, own land, or even remain in that country – thereby threatening her ability to care for her children. Similarly, if a woman has children with a man of a different nationality, but those children only have access to the father’s nationality, it may be difficult for her to return to her home country with her children when attempting to flee an abusive environment. Human Trafficking: Research has shown that stateless women and girls are at an increased risk of being trafficked (https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/current/news/press-release-statelessness-and-human-trafficking/). Some of the reasons why stateless women and girls are at greater risk of human trafficking include obstacles they face in accessing education, formal employment, documentation, and freedom of movement. Statelessness is also linked with high poverty rates, depression, and feelings of hopelessness exploited by traffickers. Child Marriage: Due to the lack of opportunity and insecurity caused by gender-discriminatory nationality laws, some families view early marriage as a route to greater security for their daughters (http://www.californialawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/5-Menz-Statelessness-and-Child-Marriage.pdf), who can access citizenship and therefore legal status through their husbands. Conversely, when child marriage occurs in countries that prohibit the practice, those marriages often go unregistered. In countries where women are unable to independently confer nationality, a missing marriage certificate means that children born of that union are at great risk of statelessness. With higher rates of child marriage among displaced populations from several countries with gender discriminatory nationality laws – including Syria and Iraq – the number of newborns at risk of stateless among this population increases. Obstacles to Treatment and Services for GBV Survivors: Those without citizenship due to gender discrimination in nationality laws may lack accessing to public healthcare, inhibiting treatment for GBV survivors, including sexual and reproductive healthcare. Outside of the forms of GBV listed above, gender discrimination in nationality laws has an even more fundamental link with GBV – one that has a harmful impact on a country’s entire population. Discriminatory nationality laws contribute to the primary root cause of gender-based violence: women’s unequal status in society. When a State holds women’s citizenship as encompassing less rights than that of men, it shows that all citizens are really not equal, despite what any Constitution might claim. It shows that rights can be granted and denied based on gender. Gender discrimination in nationality laws implicitly endorses the idea that women should naturally hold less power than men, that they are beneath men, that the father is the ‘head of the household’ and the legitimate source of identity. Scholarship on gender-based violence has overwhelmingly pointed to women’s unequal status as the primary root cause of violence against women and girls around the world. While every government has asserted their commitment to combating gender-based violence, this commitment requires that these governments take action to end gender discrimination in nationality laws and remove gender-discriminatory provisions from all laws. *There are many reasons why children may not be able to acquire their father’s nationality, such as: if the father lacks identity documents or is stateless himself; if the father does not recognize the child; if the father is unknown; or if the father’s country does not permit conferral of nationality due to the father’s status. Several countries do not allow unmarried fathers to confer nationality. For these reasons, the Convention on the Rights of the Child upholds children’s right to a nationality and bans discrimination based on the gender of the child’s parents.

The Violence of Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws

Upon first glance, gender-based violence (GBV) and laws pertaining to citizenship may seem worlds apart. In fact, there are significant links between women’s nationality rights and GBV. During these #16Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, it is a good time to consider how gender discrimination in nationality laws contributes to violence against women and girls. Nationality laws determine the ability to acquire, change, and retain one’s citizenship, as well as the ability to pass citizenship to children and non-national spouses. Though traditionally the nationality of wives and children was based on the nationality of the husband/father, over the 20th century most countries reformed their nationality laws (and gave women the right to vote!), enabling women and men to confer citizenship on an equal basis. However, today 27 countries (the-issue/the-problem) still deny mothers the equal right to confer nationality on their children. Roughly 50 countries (the-issue/the-problem) maintain other gender-discriminatory provisions in their nationality laws, such as denying women the right to equally confer nationality on spouses, or stripping women of their citizenship due to their marital status. When children do not have the right to their mother’s nationality, they are at risk of being stateless, a status whereby no state recognizes an individual as a citizen.[1] (#ftn1) UNHCR conservatively estimates that there are over 10 million stateless persons worldwide. In addition to being a leading cause of statelessness, these laws impact several forms of gender-based violence and result in other human rights abuses (the-issue/the-problem): Domestic Violence:Gender discrimination in nationality laws can increase the obstacles faced by women attempting to leave abusive marriages and protect their children from abusers. For example, in some countries, if a woman acquires another nationality through marriage with a foreign man, she may be stripped of that nationality upon divorce even if she resides in the country, potentially losing her ability to work, own land, or even remain in that country – thereby threatening her ability to care for her children. Similarly, if a woman has children with a man of a different nationality, but those children only have access to the father’s nationality, it may be difficult for her to return to her home country with her children when attempting to flee an abusive environment. Human Trafficking: Research has shown that stateless women and girls are at an increased risk of being trafficked (https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/current/news/press-release-statelessness-and-human-trafficking/). Some of the reasons why stateless women and girls are at greater risk of human trafficking include obstacles they face in accessing education, formal employment, documentation, and freedom of movement. Statelessness is also linked with high poverty rates, depression, and feelings of hopelessness exploited by traffickers. Child Marriage:Due to the lack of opportunity and insecurity caused by gender-discriminatory nationality laws, some families view early marriage as a route to greater security for their daughters (http://www.californialawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/5-Menz-Statelessness-and-Child-Marriage.pdf), who can access citizenship and therefore legal status through their husbands. Conversely, when child marriage occurs in countries that prohibit the practice, those marriages often go unregistered. In countries where women are unable to independently confer nationality, a missing marriage certificate means that children born of that union are at great risk of statelessness. With higher rates of child marriage among displaced populations from several countries with gender discriminatory nationality laws – including Syria and Iraq – the number of newborns at risk of stateless among this population increases. Obstacles to Treatment and Services for GBV Survivors:Those without citizenship due to gender discrimination in nationality laws may lack accessing to public healthcare, inhibiting treatment for GBV survivors, including sexual and reproductive healthcare. Outside of the forms of GBV listed above, gender discrimination in nationality laws has an even more fundamental link with GBV – one that has a harmful impact on a country’s entire population. Discriminatory nationality laws contribute to the primary root cause of gender-based violence: women’s unequal status in society. When a State holds women’s citizenship as encompassing less rights than that of men, it shows that all citizens are really not equal, despite what any Constitution might claim. It shows that rights can be granted and denied based on gender. Gender discrimination in nationality laws implicitly endorses the idea that women should naturally hold less power than men, that they are beneath men, that the father is the ‘head of the household’ and the legitimate source of identity. Scholarship on gender-based violence has overwhelmingly pointed to women’s unequal status as the primary root cause of violence against women and girls around the world. While every government has asserted their commitment to combating gender-based violence, this commitment requires that these governments take action to end gender discrimination in nationality laws and remove gender-discriminatory provisions from all laws. [1] (#ftnref1) There are many reasons why children may not be able to acquire their father’s nationality, such as: if the father lacks identity documents or is stateless himself; if the father does not recognize the child; if the father is unknown; or if the father’s country does not permit conferral of nationality due to the father’s status. Several countries do not allow unmarried fathers to confer nationality. For these reasons, the Convention on the Rights of the Child upholds children’s right to a nationality and bans discrimination based on the gender of the child’s parents.