The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights mobilizes international action to end gender discrimination in nationality laws.

Excerpt from UNHCR Submission for the Universal Periodic Review of Mauritania, 2nd Cycle, 23rd Session, November 2106

Mauritania’s nationality law (Loi N° 1961-112) fails to guarantee the right of every child to acquire a nationality. More specifically, the Law fails to cover the situation where children who are born on State territory or to nationals abroad would otherwise be stateless because both parents are themselves stateless or are unable to confer their citizenship upon the child.

The Law moreover includes provisions that discriminate against Mauritanian mothers by denying them the ability to confer nationality upon their children on an equal basis with Mauritanian fathers. Mauritanian mothers are able to confer their nationality in cases where the child is born in Mauritania and the father of the child is unknown, stateless, or a foreigner, but such children may renounce their nationality in the year before reaching majority. In case they opt to do so, renunciation is not conditioned on possession or acquisition of another nationality. As for children born abroad to Mauritanian mothers and foreign fathers, they may only opt for Mauritanian nationality in the year before reaching majority and it is not clear from the law whether this right extends to children born from fathers who are stateless or of unknown nationality. In cases where a child born abroad is unable to acquire the nationality of his or her foreign father, the child will be stateless until the year before reaching majority, which could have serious implications for the child’s enjoyment of his or her economic, social, and cultural rights.

We would like to note that States are responsible for conferring nationality and ensuring the right of every child to acquire a nationality. Discharging this responsibility requires the establishment of safeguards against statelessness in a State’s nationality law. The 1961 Convention establishes a range of standards to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life, in particular that States shall grant their nationality to children who have ties with these States through birth on the territory or descent and who would otherwise be stateless. The 1961 Convention is therefore of central importance to full enjoyment of every child’s right to acquire nationality under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Stateless persons who satisfy the refugee definition contained in the 1951 Convention are afforded the necessary international protection associated with that status. However, the international refugee protection regime does not specifically address the rights of non-refugee stateless persons who are in need of international protection. In many countries, stateless persons are subject to discrimination, in particular where they do not enjoy a legal status in any country. The 1954 Convention is an important instrument to ensure enjoyment of human rights by stateless persons. The 1954 Convention establishes an internationally recognized status for stateless persons. It also recognizes a number of key rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of association, access to courts, freedom of movement, identity documentation and internationally recognized travel documents.

These international instruments are complementary to other treaties to which Mauritania is already a party and which also contain key safeguards against statelessness, including the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

In view of these concerns, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in its Concluding Observations of 2014 called upon the State party “to amend its Nationality Code to bring it into line with Article 9 of the Convention and to enable Mauritanian women to transmit their nationality to their children and their foreign spouse on an equal basis with Mauritanian men. The Committee further recommends that the State party consider acceding to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.”

Amending the nationality law to remove gender-discriminatory provisions would also ensure greater harmony with Mauritania’s Constitution, Article 1 of which “guarantees all citizens equality before the law, without distinction as to origin, sex or social condition.”

Recommendations: UNHCR recommends that the Government of Mauritania:

  • Accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; and
  • Review nationality legislation to bring it in line with international standards by eliminating gender inequality, in particular to ensure that Mauritanian mothers are able to confer nationality to children born abroad.


Read the full submission here

bahamas voting largePhoto source: Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights is deeply disappointed by the failure of the public referendum in The Bahamas on June 7, which sought to end discrimination on the basis of sex and enshrine the principle of equality between women and men in the Bahamian Constitution.

Three of the four bills included in the referendum sought to ensure that Bahamian women and men are treated equally in their ability to confer nationality to children and spouses. Due to the referendum’s failure, The Bahamas remains one of only twenty-seven countries worldwide – one of two in the Western Hemisphere – that denies mothers the right to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. The Bahamas will also now continue to deny unmarried fathers the ability to confer nationality to their children. Because of this, today children born abroad to Bahamian women or unmarried Bahamian men continue to be at risk of being stateless – whereby no country considers them citizens – while families and spouses may be torn apart because Bahamian women are denied the ability to confer nationality to spouses, a right reserved only for Bahamian men.

The injustices embedded in the current Constitution are clear examples of gender-based discrimination. The perpetuation of this discrimination means that The Bahamas – like too many countries across the globe – remains in violation of its commitments under international law to ensure equality between women and men.

We applaud the efforts by many Bahamians, including Citizens for Constitutional Equality and government leaders, to address this discrimination. The failure of the referendum only serves to highlight the significant attention and hard work required in The Bahamas and worldwide to achieve gender equality.

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and our coalition members around the world, including in The Bahamas, remain dedicated to working for legal reforms to end gender discrimination in nationality laws. We call on the international community – government, organizations, and individuals – to join us in advocating for equal nationality rights for equal citizens, women and men.


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