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Madagascar Poised to Remove Gender Discrimination from Nationality Laws

by Catherine Harrington / News

Antananarivo, Madagascar, November 5, 2015 – Madagascar, one of 27 countries that deny women the right to confer their citizenship to their children, is poised to remove this gender discrimination from its Nationality Code, a move that would ensure all citizens have equal rights to confer nationality to children and foreign spouses.

Group Madagascar 11 3 2015 smFollowing a technical workshop with parliamentarians organized by the Madagascar-based NGO Focus Development, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, Equal Rights Trust and UNHCR, more than 20 Madagascan parliamentarians signed a pledge to reform the country’s nationality code this session, bringing it into compliance with the Madagascan Constitution, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex.

Prior to a Nationality Assembly debate on the issue, Jean Max Rakotomamonjy, President of the National Assembly, met with representatives from the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, including the Focus Development, Women’s Refugee Commission, Equal Rights Trust and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). During the meeting, the President voiced his personal commitment to eradicate gender discrimination from the nationality law by putting forward a draft bill this parliamentary session.

Under Madagascar’s current Nationality Code, women can only confer nationality to children born out of wedlock, while Madagascan men confer nationality to their children in all circumstances. Madagascan women are also prevented from conferring their nationality to non-national spouses, a right that is reserved for men. In instances when Madagascan women apply for their children’s citizenship, the Code permits denial of nationality based on physical or mental disabilities. At the same time, racial discrimination in the application of the country’s nationality law has resulted in a significant portion of the Madagascan population having been denied citizenship, rendering this population stateless. Serious human rights abuses result from such laws, including lack of access to education, healthcare, employment, property rights and social services.

Madagascar Pledge 11 3 2015

During the November 3 parliamentary debate, representatives from Focus Development, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, Equal Rights Trust, UNHCR, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented the case for reform to the parliamentarians. These experts emphasized the human rights violations caused by the law, as well as the need to bring the Nationality Code in line with the Madagascan Constitution and with the country’s obligations under international law to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, race, religion and disability.

Speakers also highlighted that discrimination in the law inhibits the country’s development, by preventing segments of the population from contributing to the economy. Importantly, the current Code also contributes to corruption due to authorities’ discretion in the application of the law.

The gallery of the National Assembly was filled with individuals affected by the law, who provided moving testimonies on this discrimination affects their daily lives. One parliamentarian gave the example of his daughter’s son, who is denied citizenship simply because his daughter, married to a foreign man. An elderly man of South Asian descent, whose ancestors have been in Madagascar for six generations stated, “I might not look Malagasy, but in my heart I am Madagascan…We give food and even donate blood from our community for the Malagasy people. When they say that we’re not integrated in Malagasy society, we are not given an opportunity to integrate.”

Research conducted over the past year by the Equal Rights Trust documented serious human rights abuses resulting from the law, including lack of access to education, healthcare, employment, property rights, social services, and citizenship itself.

"I want to work, but I can't because I don't have a driver's licence. It is very difficult," said Yousef Abdallah, who would like to be a mechanic or chauffeur. "I feel frustrated," he added. "For the immigration services, I am not Malagasy, but I was born here, I am Malagasy."

Student Raliya Andriatsiferanarivo, whose situation is similar, told ERT her university fees were more than four times higher than those of other students because she was not considered a national.

Following government commitments, the new nationality law is expected to eliminate gender discrimination completely.

“We are overjoyed,” said Catherine Harrington, Campaign Manager for the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights. “Every day that discrimination persists in the law, individuals and their families suffer. The National Assembly has the power to end discrimination in the nationality law and we stand ready to support them in this effort.”

“Removing gender discrimination from the law would be a major step towards gender equality and eradicating statelessness,” said Dimitrina Petrova, Executive Director of the Equal Rights Trust. “It would have huge benefits for many families across Madagascar. Their lives would be changed entirely.”

The week's events were covered by national, regionaland internationalmedia, resulting in further public attention to the negative impact of discriminatory nationality laws. 

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Malaysian Civil Society Calls for Government Action to Uphold Equal Nationality Rights for Women and Men

by Catherine Harrington / News

Following the Malaysian National Consultation on Achieving Equal Nationality Rights for Women and Men, Malaysian civil society are calling for the new Pakatan Harapan government to enact reforms to uphold the equal right of Malaysian women and men to confer nationality on children and spouses. The groups’ appeals are outlined in thirteen recommendations submitted to government, which include Constitutional reforms required to achieve gender-equal nationality rights, as well as policies and procedures for accountability and temporary measure to address rights violations experienced by affected persons pending reform.

Activists at Malaysia's Parliament with MP Nurul Anwar

Presently, Malaysian men have the right to confer nationality on children born in wedlock both inside and outside Malaysia without exception. While Malaysian women have the right to confer nationality on children born inside Malaysia, they are denied the right to confer nationality on children born abroad. Gender discrimination in the law also extends to Malaysian men, who cannot confer nationality on children born outside of legal marriage. Women are also denied the right to confer nationality on spouses on an equal basis with Malaysia men. Foreign spouses of Malaysian men are entitled to be registered as citizens, with the fulfilment of specific criteria, including two years residence in Malaysia. Spouses of Malaysian women only have the option of applying for citizenship by naturalization – the same as an individual without family ties to Malaysia – which includes a ten-year residency requirement.

From July 25-26, over ninety individuals representing over twenty civil society organizations convened in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the negative impact of gender discrimination in Malaysia’s nationality law and consider action needed to achieve reform. The participants also learned from regional activists from Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Nepal and Pakistan, who shared lessons learned from recent and ongoing nationality law reform campaigns in these countries. Malaysia is one of only two countries in the ASEAN region, along with Brunei, and one of only twenty-five countries globally with nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender in terms of a citizen’s ability to confer nationality on their children.

On the sidelines of the National Consultation, the organizers briefed parliamentarians and national media, as well as representativesMalaysia workshop group photo edited medium of several embassies, to inform Malaysia’s upcoming review of its international human rights commitments, as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process.

The Federal Constitution of Malaysia (Article 8), which promotes equality and prohibits discrimination, is undermined by the prevalence of gender discrimination in the country's nationality law, which also contravenes specific provisions that are central to the “object and purpose” of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which Malaysia has ratified.

By denying Malaysia citizens equal nationality rights because of their gender, the government is violating citizens’ right to non-discrimination and equal protection of the law. Gender discrimination in Malaysia’s nationality law can further result in family disintegration, while also depriving affected persons of access to: education; healthcare; employment; inheritance; property rights; civil and political rights; freedom of movement. Some children and non-citizen spouses of Malaysian women, as well as children born out of wedlock to Malaysian men, are rendered stateless, due to gender discrimination in the law. Some affected persons are left in a state of citizenship limbo, waiting for years for decisions on citizenship applications.

This discrimination negatively impacts the country as a whole, inhibiting national development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Media Coverage:

MENA Civil Society Calls for Gender-Equal Nationality Rights

by Catherine Harrington / News

 [Click here for the Arabic statement.]

We, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and civil society organizations from the Middle East-North Africa and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, welcome the Declaration of the First Conference for Arab States on Good Practices and Regional Opportunities to Strengthen Women’s Nationality Rights (the Conference), which took place October 1-2, 2017 at the Headquarters of the of the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States in Cairo, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, with participation by representatives of Member States, parliamentarians and civil society representatives; and with the participation of the General Secretariat of the Arab Interior Ministers Council, the Arab Parliament, the Arab Labor Organization, Arab Women Organization, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Declaration calls upon all Arab States to uphold equality between citizens and take concrete steps to reform nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of sex, consistent with the mandate for equality enshrined in most national constitutions and international conventions, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and provides a process going forward to realize nationality rights for women on an equal basis with men.

On September 30 and October 3, 2017, building on the activities of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights launched in 2014, a workshop was held for civil society organizations concerned with this issue and participating in the Conference, in order to prepare for and evaluate the Conference and its outcomes, review achievements in the region, and prepare for next steps. Participants included civil society leaders from 18 countries in the Middle East-North Africa and GCC region.

Based on these discussions, the civil society participants agree on the following:

We, as citizens, looking forward to living in modern States that respect the principle of equal citizenship for everyone regardless of gender, and:

Affirmingthe importance of the Conference Statement, in particular, recognizing women and men’s equal nationality rights, without discrimination;

 Affirmingthat women’s entitlement to equal rights in conferring nationality to her spouse and children on the same basis as men expresses the realization of the principle of equality and contributes to achieving comprehensive and sustainable development;

 Affirmingwomen have equal and non-negotiable rights and that equality in nationality rights is a right provided for in international conventions signed and ratified by the Arab states, regardless of some reservations which should be lifted;

 Emphasizingwomen's equal right to confer citizenship, regardless of her marital status or the identity of her spouse/her child's father, noting in particular the Arab League's decision that Palestinians' right to return does not fall under a statute of limitations and is not precluded by the acquisition of another nationality;

 Emphasizingthe ability or prohibition of dual nationality by states must be universally applied to all citizens, regardless of gender;

Commendingthe efforts of some Arab states that have amended their nationality laws[1] to be consistent with the principle of equality and international criteria, and encouraging other Arab states with nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender to undertake such reforms;

Encouraging the League of Arab States to study the positive impact of nationality law reforms to uphold gender equality in the region, and their benefit to society;

Welcoming the steps taken by the League of Arab States to raise this important issue and its efforts to facilitate dialogue between concerned civil society organizations and Member States;

 Recognizingthe lack of equality between women and men in nationality laws in some Arab states results in these states being among the 52 countries with nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender; and among the 25 countries that deny women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men;

 Recognizingthe lack of equality in nationality laws between women and men can result in family disintegration and violence within family and in society, while also depriving affected persons of access to education, healthcare, employment, inheritance and property rights, civil rights, and freedom of movement;

 Recognizingnationality laws that deny women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men negatively impact States and inhibit their national development, due to the consequences of discrimination, including generations of stateless persons created by such laws;

We call for all Arab states to:

  1. Enact nationality law reforms to uphold equal nationality rights for women and men without delay, including the equal ability to confer nationality on children and spouses;
  1. Ensure that nationality law reforms shall not exclude any person, including on the basis of disability or any other socio-economic status;
  1. Remove reservations to CEDAW Article 9;
  1. End the current practice of permitting or denying dual nationality based on the gender of the citizen;
  1. Intensify efforts for continued coordination with the League of Arab States to put the Conference Statement and its recommendations into effect.

We also call for:

       6. Civil society organizations and governments to work with the Global Campaign and its national and regional partners, including organizations that participated in the conference, to realize reforms needed to uphold gender-equal nationality rights.

Signatories:

Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights*

Arab Women Association (Jordan)

L'Association des Femmes Chefs de Famille (Mauritania)

Bahrain Women Union (Bahrain)

Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (Lebanon)

Equality without Reservation Coalition (Middle East-North Africa Region)

Equality Now (International)

Forum for Women in Development (Egypt)

Jordanian Women’s Union (Jordan)

Kuwait Women Culture Social and Society (Kuwait)

The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Woman (Lebanon)

Mother for Rights and Development (Egypt)

My Nationality is a right for me and my family Campaign (Lebanon)

People's Legal Aid Centre (Sudan)

Ruwad alHoukou /Frontiers Ruwad (Lebanon)

Sisterhood Is Global Institute/Jordan (Jordan)

Tafawuq Consulting Center for Development (Bahrain)

Wogood Foundation for Human Security (Yemen)

Women's Learning Partnership (Global)

Women's Studies Centre (Palestine)

 (Organizations interested to sign this declaration in solidarity, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or send request to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

In Solidarity:

Dar Al Kathem for Orphans Care (Jordan)

Health Advisory House (Jordan)

Mizan Group for Human Rights (Jordan)

My Mother is Jordanian and Her Nationality is My Right Campaign (Jordan)

My Nationality Is a Right for My Family Coalition (Jordan)

The Third Millennium Ladies Association (Jordan)


*The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights consists of a coalition of national, regional and international organizations, activists, and UN partners, including Steering Committee Members Equal Rights Trust, Equality Now, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Women’s Learning Partnership, and Women’s Refugee Commission.

[1] Since 2003, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen enacted reforms to enshrine women and men’s equal right to confer nationality on their children. Algeria also enacted reforms to uphold citizens’ equal ability to confer nationality on spouses, and Tunisia also enshrined the right of women and men to confer nationality on spouses. For an overview of regional reforms see: http://equalnationalityrights.org/images/zdocs/MENA-Nationality-Rights-Brochure-English.pdf

New Privileges for Jordanian Women's Children Denied Citizenship

by Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights / News

Though an important step, equal rights not "privileges" needed.

Though international law guarantees each individual the right to a nationality, widespread gender discrimination in nationality laws throughout the Middle East have resulted significant numbers of children unable to access nationality in their country of residence, as well as large stateless populations. In Jordan, a country struggling to manage a growing refugee and stateless population, gender discrimination in the country’s nationality law has a profound impact, particularly on children.

Oral Statement to the UN Human Rights Council: Saudi Arabia

by Catherine Harrington / News

The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, requests member states to consider our remarks on Saudi Arabia’s UPR, regarding two main issues: discrimination against women in nationality legislation, and the protracted statelessness experienced by certain groups in the country.

On the outset it is important to note that in its state report before its previous UPR, Saudi Arabia did not comment on stateless communities in its territory, neither did it directly address gender discrimination in its nationality law.  Several countries made general recommendations to Saudi Arabia with regard to the promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination, but none specifically mentioned gender discrimination in nationality laws. With regard to statelessness, Mexico recommended that Saudi Arabia should consider the ratification of the conventions on statelessness. Saudi Arabia did accept this recommendation, but has not yet acted on it.

Firstlywith regard to gender discrimination:  According Saudi Arabian Citizenship System, children of Saudi fathers acquire Saudi nationality at birth, regardless of the child’s birthplace, but Saudi women cannot transmit their Saudi nationality automatically to their children.  Article 7 of the law states that, “Individuals born inside or outside the Kingdom from a Saudi father, or Saudi mother and unknown father, or born inside the Kingdom from unknown parents (foundling) are considered Saudis.” Alongside the discrimination that this is embedded in and the human rights impacts it has on the children, it also - in many cases - puts children at risk of statelessness when they cannot obtain the nationality of their father, or if their father is also stateless.

It is true that Article 8 of Saudi Arabian Citizenship System further goes onto allow children of Saudi mothers the option of applying for nationality at the age of majority, with conditions attached. This allows the option for children of Saudi women to naturalise, at the state’s discretion, after reaching the age of majority. This option falls far behind standards of gender equality and child rights. This provision does not provide mothers the same nationality rights as fathers, and denies children access to nationality and many other rights in their childhood.  

Secondly, with regard to stateless communities in Saudi Arabia:  One of the most prominent are the Bidoons.  Saudi Arabia hosts a sizable Bidoon population, reporting has suggested near to 250,000. Even UNHCR’s more conservative estimate of 70,000, places Saudi Arabia among the countries with the largest stateless populations in the world. This group mainly consists of descendants of nomadic tribes who failed to register for Saudi nationality in the past when the nation state was being formed.  This may have been as they did not know of the registration procedure, did not understand its importance and/or were travelling during the registration period.  Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is their home, Bidoons are considered "illegal residents" by the Saudi government and are not eligible for Saudi citizenship.  They are instead issued identity documents, known as "black cards" which are five year residency permits that the government began to issue in 2009. The procedure for obtaining these cards is unclear and their validity is often precarious.

Although these Bidoons have clear ties to the country and no option of obtaining nationality elsewhere in the world, the Saudi Arabian authority has made no attempts to resolve their situation of statelessness, nor ensure their access to other rights.  

It is of utmost importance to address the citizenship status of this population, as a matter of urgency. It has been noted that in 2020, the Bidoon will be asked to provide documentation establishing their origin. It is not clear what the consequences would be for those who cannot provide this documentation. Most fear they will be at risk of deportation, but they have nowhere to be removed to. 

Significantly, there is a large population of stateless Rohingya who reside in Saudi Arabia. The majority have lived there for decades and over generations (many since the 1950s), and again there are no official statistics for this population. However, estimates place the figure in the hundreds of thousands and possibly well over half a million.  Their status and protection has improved over the past few years during which Saudi Arabia has issued 190,000 free residency permits to them, which allows residency for four years. Under this process, applicants were also exempted from paying previous fines which resulted from non-renewal of their previous residency permits. Although this is a positive first step, it is not wholly adequate to resolve the legal status of stateless Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia. Short-term residency permits are not a permanent solution and the status of Rohingya continues to be at the discretion and goodwill of the state. Further, this initiative has not  covered the full population of Rohingya in the country, there are significant numbers who remain with no legal status. This status also does not ensure full access to rights; and perhaps most importantly, Rohingya children born in Saudi Arabia – who should be entitled to Saudi nationality in accordance with Article 7 of the CRC, are denied this right.

A large stateless Palestinian population also lives in Saudi Arabia, facing similar challenges in access to human rights and protection.

Impacts of statelessness: For all stateless persons, whether it is because of gender discrimination or being born into a stateless family, being stateless in Saudi Arabia can result in significant violations of rights, which has included lack of access to public education, healthcare and other services; inability to access employment, impeded family reunification; social alienation and psychological challenges.  What is often the most difficult consequence for these communities is that, alongside other non-nationals they are at the mercy of their sponsors to remain in the country. But unlike other non-nationals they would have nowhere to return to if subjected to deportation proceedings. 

The co-submitting organisations call on States to recommend the following to Saudi Arabia:

  1. Ensure that all necessary steps are taken to amend the Citizenship Law to enable Saudi women to transfer nationality to their children and spouses, on an equal basis as men.
  2. Take all necessary steps to facilitate the pathway to citizenship and the full rights associated with citizenship for those who have been determined stateless Bidoon in Saudi Arabia, and to ensure that no children of these communities are born stateless in the territory of Saudi Arabia.
  3. Take all necessary steps to implement comprehensive safeguards against statelessness of any child who is born in Saudi Arabia.
  4. Ensure that all stateless populations in Saudi Arabia with a refugee and migration background, such as the Palestinians and Rohingya, are ensured full access to rights and services and a secure and indefinite residency status. Ensure that all children born to these communities in Saudi Arabia, are granted Saudi nationality.
  5. Take all necessary steps to accede to and fully implement the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.

Finally we would like to highlight the fact that the problem of statelessness is easily solvable in Saudi Arabia, and with only a few steps hundreds of thousands of individuals, who already live there, will be enable to better contribute and belong to society as equal citizens..

Sierra Leone Enshrines Equal Right of Women to Pass Nationality to Children

by Catherine Harrington / News

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights joyfully welcomes the passage of Sierra Leone’s amended Citizenship Act, which now guarantees women and men the equal right to confer nationality on children. With this critical reform, only 25 countries remain worldwide that deny women the ability to pass their citizenship to their children on an equal basis with men.

Prior to the July 5 reform, the Citizenship Act of 1973 (amended 2006), denied Sierra Leonean women the right to confer nationality on their children born abroad, a right reserved for men. This reform advances commitments made by all members of the West African regional union ECOWAS to enshrine equal nationality rights for women – a critical step to ending statelessness and an obligation under the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which has been ratified by all but seven countries globally. Only two states in West Africa – Liberia and Togo – retain nationality laws that deny women the equal right to confer nationality on children, though governments in both countries have committed to address this discrimination in the law.

Sierra Leone’s reform comes on the heels of two notable advances for gender equal nationality rights in 2017, including: the promulgation in January of Madagascar’s new nationality law, which guarantees women and men the equal right to confer nationality on children; and a June decision by the United States Supreme Court, which struck down a provision that denied unmarried fathers the right to pass citizenship to their children on an equal basis with mothers. Over the past century, the overwhelming majority of countries have enacted reforms to enshrine equal nationality rights for women and men, with discriminatory citizenship laws largely having been a legacy of colonial rule and legal systems that denied women voting and other rights.

The Global Campaign warmly congratulates the government and people of Sierra Leone for this important achievement, which advances the realization of gender equality and justice for all citizens of the country. 

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Somalia UPR Pre-Session Statement

by Catherine Harrington / News

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.

Sudan's Supreme Court Reaffirms Women’s Right to Confer Nationality on Children

by Catherine Harrington / News

The Supreme Court of Sudan reaffirmed the right of Sudanese women to confer nationality on their children in a July 6 decision. This important advancement for gender equal nationality rights underscores the need for Sudan's Nationality Act to be aligned with the country’s Interim Constitution and international law.

Though the Interim Constitution (2005) enshrines the equal right of men and women to pass nationality to their children, the Sudanese Nationality Act (amended 2011) retains several provisions that discriminate against women. While Sudanese men automatically confer citizenship on their children, the children of Sudanese women and foreign fathers are required to submit an application in order to acquire citizenship. Sudanese women are also unable to confer nationality on foreign spouses, a right reserved for Sudanese men. The Nationality Act further states that nationals who acquire South Sudanese citizenship will be stripped of their Sudanese citizenship.

The Supreme Court’s decision focused on Adel Burai Ramadan, a formerly Sudanese citizen who was stripped of his nationality on the basis that his (formerly Sudanese) father acquired South Sudanese citizenship. In stripping Ramadan of this citizenship, the Ministry did not recognize Ramadan’s right to citizenship from the maternal line. The Court ordered that Sudanese citizenship be restored to Ramadan without delay.

By holding that the Interim Constitution guarantees Ramadan’s right to Sudanese citizenship, the Supreme Court’s decision is a major step towards equal nationality rights for Sudanese women. While an important milestone, the Nationality Act must be reformed to bring it in line with the Interim Constitution, thereby helping to ensure that local authorities uphold women’s right to pass nationality to their children. For the Nationality Act to enshrine gender equality, it must also uphold women’s ability to confer nationality on spouses on an equal basis with Sudanese men, in line with international human rights law.

Support Gender Equal Nationality Rights

by Catherine Harrington / News

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, 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 Building
In 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 Impact
Designed 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 Rights
Region-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

by Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights / News

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

by Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights / News

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

by Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights / Uncategorised

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

by Catherine Harrington / News

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 still deny mothers the equal right to confer nationality on their children. Roughly 50 countries 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:

  • 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. 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, 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

by Catherine Harrington /

6081164334 8340044b92 o

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 still deny mothers the equal right to confer nationality on their children. Roughly 50 countries 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] 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:

  • 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. 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, 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] 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. 

UN agencies & civil society organizations call for the repeal of gender-discriminatory nationality laws

by Catherine Harrington / News

UN Women, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights urge Member States to uphold gender-equal nationality laws at the High-Level Political Forum

On the margins of the UN High-Level Political Forum, UN Women, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights joined the Permanent Mission of Tunisia and the Office of the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations at a side event, calling for the urgent repeal of gender-discriminatory nationality laws.

Although 196 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and 189 have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), discrimination against women in nationality laws persist in some countries, undermining the rights of women and children around the world.

For instance, 25 countries continue to discriminate against women in their ability to confer their nationality on their children on an equal basis as men, leading to statelessness when children cannot acquire nationality from their fathers. In addition, an estimated 50 countries deny women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality, including the ability of women to confer nationality on their non-national spouses. Without citizenship, children and foreign spouses are often subject to a range of restrictions in their job and education possibilities, their ability to travel, and to open bank accounts, own or inherit property.

HLPFSideEvent GenderEqualNationalityLaws July2018 Medium

On the theme “Realizing Gender-Equal Nationality Rights: Regional Developments and Good Practices”, the side event builds on the first Arab League conference devoted to advancing gender-equal nationality rights held in Cairo in 2017. This unprecedented convening served as the basis for the historic Arab Declaration on Belonging and Identity endorsed at the Arab League Ministerial Conference in 2018, which calls for undertaking reforms to uphold gender-equal nationality rights; the removal of reservations to CEDAW Article 9 on women’s equal nationality rights; and national plans for the implementation of the Arab Declaration.

Today’s event is taking place at a time when a number of other regional efforts are underway to fulfil gender equality in nationality laws. For instance, the African Union is in the process of finalizing a draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right to Nationality. The Protocol calls on Member States of the African Union to uphold equal nationality rights and as well as the elimination of statelessness. Similarly, the Economic Community of West African States is implementing its 2015 Abidjan Declaration of Ministers of ECOWAS Member States on the Eradication of Statelessness, which is dedicated to eradicating gender discrimination in nationality laws in line with CEDAW.

UN agencies speaking at the side event urged countries to seize the momentum, while ensuring that no one is left behind in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UN agencies and civil society call for the repeal of gender-discriminatory nationality laws

by Catherine Harrington / News

UN Women, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights urge Member States to uphold gender-equal nationality laws at the High-Level Political Forum

On the margins of the UN High-Level Political Forum, UN Women, UNICEF, UNHCR and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights joined the Permanent Mission of Tunisia and the Office of the Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations at a side event, calling for the urgent repeal of gender-discriminatory nationality laws.

Although 196 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and 189 have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), discrimination against women in nationality laws persist in some countries, undermining the rights of women and children around the world.

For instance, 25 countries continue to discriminate against women in their ability to confer their nationality on their children on an equal basis as men, leading to statelessness when children cannot acquire nationality from their fathers. In addition, an estimated 50 countries deny women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality, including the ability of women to confer nationality on their non-national spouses. Without citizenship, children and foreign spouses are often subject to a range of restrictions in their job and education possibilities, their ability to travel, and to open bank accounts, own or inherit property.

HLPFSideEvent GenderEqualNationalityLaws July2018 Medium

On the theme “Realizing Gender-Equal Nationality Rights: Regional Developments and Good Practices”, the side event builds on the first Arab League conference devoted to advancing gender-equal nationality rights held in Cairo in 2017. This unprecedented convening served as the basis for the historic Arab Declaration on Belonging and Identity endorsed at the Arab League Ministerial Conference in 2018, which calls for undertaking reforms to uphold gender-equal nationality rights; the removal of reservations to CEDAW Article 9 on women’s equal nationality rights; and national plans for the implementation of the Arab Declaration.

Today’s event is taking place at a time when a number of other regional efforts are underway to fulfil gender equality in nationality laws. For instance, the African Union is in the process of finalizing a draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Right to Nationality. The Protocol calls on Member States of the African Union to uphold equal nationality rights and as well as the elimination of statelessness. Similarly, the Economic Community of West African States is implementing its 2015 Abidjan Declaration of Ministers of ECOWAS Member States on the Eradication of Statelessness, which is dedicated to eradicating gender discrimination in nationality laws in line with CEDAW.

UN agencies speaking at the side event urged countries to seize the momentum, while ensuring that no one is left behind in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.