Somalia UPR Pre-Session Statement

(cc) United Nations Photo

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ratify the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.