Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda 

Since the establishment in 2000 of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, the international community has increasingly recognized the critical role of women in addressing conflict and peacebuilding. This "Women, Peace and Security" framework also highlights the particular impact of conflict on women, and, importantly, the role of gender discrimination and misogyny in driving conflict and insecurity.

At its core, gender discrimination in nationality laws perpetuates women's unequal status in society and the family, thereby undermining a society's stability and ability to thrive. These discriminatory laws also exacerbate women and children's vulnerability on conflict and post-conflict contexts, a fact recognized in the UN Security Council 2122 and other Security Council statements. There are several reasons for this:

1) Women and their family may lack identity documents and even citizenship itself due to women's unequal ability to acquire, change, retain or confer nationality on their children or spouse. In times of conflict, this can mean affected persons are unable to freely move within a country, pass check points, or cross a border to flee conflict. Watch the video or read the testimony of Mashithah Abdul Halim Mashithah Abdul Halim to learn how Malaysia's discriminatory nationality law and the Syrian conflict have resulted Mashithah having no viable way to get proof of the baby's nationality, and rendering her unable to bring her baby back home to Malaysia. 

2) In conflict contexts, families may be separated, civil documents lost, and family members may be killed or detained. Displaced children may therefore be unable to prove a legal link to their father and therefore unable to acquire their father's nationality. When women are denied the equal right to pass nationality, children in or fleeing conflict contexts are at an even greater risk of statelessness. 

3) Gender discrimination in nationality laws is a root cause of statelessness. Stateless persons face wide-ranging hardships and human rights violations, including poverty. Stateless persons therefore may face even greater obstacles in securing the resources needed to flee conflict zones and provide for their family in displacement. 

Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws & United Nations Women, Peace and Security Statements: 

 

UN Security Council Resolution 2122, October 2013

“Expressing concern at women’s exacerbated vulnerability in armed conflict and post-conflict situations particularly in relation to forced displacement, as a result of unequal citizenship rights, gender-biased application of asylum laws, and obstacles to registering and accessing identity documents which occur in many situations,…” (Page 2)

 

WPS Open Debate Concept Note, October 2014

“In Resolution 2122 (2013), the Council expresses concern at women's exacerbated vulnerability in armed conflict and post-conflict situation, particularly in relation to forced displacement, as a result of unequal citizenship rights, gender-biased application of asylum laws, and obstacles to registering and accessing identity documents which occur in many situations.” 

 

October 2014 WPS Presidential Statement:

The Security Council further recognizes that refugee and internally displaced women and girls are at increased risk of becoming stateless as a result of discriminatory nationality laws, obstacles to registering and the lack of access to identity documents, and urges States to ensure prompt and equitable provision of all necessary identity documents to such women and girls.” 

 

UN Undersecretary General WPS Open Debate Statement 2014:

“In a similar vein, unequal citizenship laws make women and their children more vulnerable. While many Member States, in line with resolution 2122 (2013), are reforming laws that discriminate against women in nationality matters, at least 25 countries maintain laws that do not allow women to confer nationality on their children.”

 

Protection of Civilians Open Debate Concept Note, January 2015:

“The Council has also expressed its concern at women’s exacerbated vulnerability in armed conflict and post-conflict situations as a result of unequal citizenship rights, gender-biased application of asylum laws, and obstacles to registering and accessing identity documents which occur in many situations.”