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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.

UN agencies, together with the Commonwealth and Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, call for reform of nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender

by Catherine Harrington / News

September 23, New York - At a high level event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, UN Women, the UN Development Programme, UNHCR, the Commonwealth and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights called for reform of nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender. Twenty-five countries retain nationality laws that deny women the right to confer citizenship on their children on an equal basis with men. More than fifty countries have nationality laws with gender-discriminatory provisions, with most denying women the same right as men to pass nationality to a noncitizen spouse.

Gender discrimination in nationality laws undermines women’s equal citizenship and results in wide-ranging rights violations and hardships for affected families, including obstacles to accessing education, healthcare, employment, family unity, freedom of movement, inheritance and property rights. Gender discrimination in nationality laws is also a primary cause of statelessness, which affects millions of people globally, and is also linked with gender-based violence. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, gender discrimination in nationality laws is exacerbating the vulnerability of affected families.

As the UN marks its 75th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a groundbreaking agreement by all members of the UN to eliminate discrimination against women – panelists at today’s high level event underscored that gender-equal nationality laws are essential to achieving gender equality, sustainable development, and security.

UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia, speaking on behalf of the UN agencies co-sponsoring the event, including the UN Development Programme and UNHCR, emphasized, “Eliminating gender discrimination in nationality laws is a peace and security imperative, as well as a human rights and development issue. Putting an end to gender discrimination in nationality laws would have profound impacts on hundreds of thousands of lives through, for example, improved access to education, health care, identity documents, employment and inheritance, as well as the reduction of statelessness, conflict, and forced displacement globally.”

At the event, the governments of Eswatini and Togo were represented by their Ministers of Justice, Pholile Shakantu and Kokouvi Agbetomy, who discussed their countries’ current efforts to advance nationality law reforms to uphold gender equality. The Government of Eswatini and a number of others pledged reform at a High-Level Segment on Statelessness that UNHCR hosted last year to help advance the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.

Highlighting the importance of gender equality in nationality laws to individuals' and countries' wellbeing at the event, Commonwealth Secretary-General Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland empasized, "Gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential components of human development and basic human rights."

A young Nepali activist, Neha Gurung, shared the impact of statelessness on her life, as a result of her mother’s inability to confer nationality on her child at birth, and called for all countries to enshrine equal nationality rights for women and men in law.

Though unfortunately historically common in many countries, the number of States with gender discriminatory nationality laws continues to decrease and momentum for gender-equal nationality rights is building in countries where such legislation persists.

Speaking on behalf of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, manager Catherine Harrington stressed, “Gender-equal nationality laws are not only fundamental to women’s equal citizenship, but support children’s rights, families’ wellbeing, and sustainable development, thereby benefitting society as a whole. Now is the time to end gender discrimination in nationality laws – a harmful, man-made problem – once and for all.”

Webinar: Leveraging UN Advocacy for Gender-Equal Nationality Rights

by Catherine Harrington / Events

Join us Thursday, November 11: 8:30-10:00 EST / 14:30-16:00 CET / 16:30-18:00 AST / 21:30-23:00 MST

Click here to register.

Twenty-five countries* have nationality laws that deny women the right to pass citizenship to their children on an equal basis with men. Approximately fifty countries** have laws that deny women the right to confer nationality on their spouse on an equal basis with men. While undermining women and men’s equality, such laws result in wide-ranging violations of international human rights law and commitments made by governments through UN agreements. National-level advocacy and domestic pressure on policymakers is essential to achieving nationality law reforms to uphold gender equality. At the same time, United Nations human rights mechanisms and related bodies provide important entry points to initiate, complement and bolster national advocacy. As members of the UN, States have obligations to uphold international human rights law, including rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and based on their ratification of the nine core human rights treaties. States have also committed themselves to global agreements and standards, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, which are relevant to the elimination of gender discrimination in nationality laws. Especially given the many challenges associated with advocacy for gender-equal nationality rights, campaigns for reform benefit from taking a multi-pronged approach that includes strategic UN-related advocacy.

On November 11, experts from multiple regions will share learnings from their experiences leveraging UN-related advocacy for gender-equal nationality rights in a webinar organized by the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and cosponsored by Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action, Equality Bahamas, Family Frontiers, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, "My Nationality is a Right for Me and My Family" Campaign, Nationality For All, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-Geneva Office.

Speakers:

  • Karima Chebbo, Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action
  • Amal de Chickera, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  • Subin Mulmi, Nationality for All
  • Bina Ramanand, Family Frontiers
  • Mirna Sabbagh, a Lebanese mother denied the right to pass her citizenship to her children
  • Melinda Anne Sharlini, Family Frontiers
  • Alicia Wallace, Equality Bahamas

Speaker bios on event registration page.

*Countries with nationality laws that deny women the right to confer nationality on their children on an equal basis with men:
The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brunei, Burundi, Eswatini, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Togo, United Arab Emirates

**Countries with nationality laws that deny women the right to confer nationality on their spouse on an equal basis with men:
The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Egypt, Eswatini, Guatemala, Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania and Yemen.