UN Convenes workshop on Ensuring Equal Nationality Rights of Every Woman

[posted 1 June 2017] Millions of women across the world are prohibited from acquiring, retaining, or changing their own nationality and from conferring their nationality to their spouse or children on an equal basis to men. This form of gender discrimination is embedded in the law of over fifty countries around the world. Last month, state representatives came together at a workshop at the UN Palais des Nations in Geneva for the Expert Workshop on the best practises to promote women’s equal nationality rights in law and in practice - mandated under the Human Rights Council resolution 32/7 on the right to a nationality. The focus of the workshop was to discuss efforts towards ending gender discrimination in nationality laws and ensuring every woman has equal rights to men in relation to her nationality.

The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion attended the workshop and was pleased to note a strong understanding by states, of the explicit causal link between gender discriminatory nationality laws and statelessness. Interventions were made from several states on their work towards prevention of statelessness and ensuring everyone enjoys the right to a nationality. The representative from Algeria, where the law was reformed in 2005 to grant equal nationality rights to women, stated that “gender equality is a fair return to normality” and highlighted the importance of government engagement with civil society on the road to reform. A number of civil society actors and affected persons presented at the workshop which helped elevate the issue from a one-dimensional legislative matter, to a visualisation of the impact on the day-to-day lives of women, men and children in all regions of the world. Tulasa Amatya, an advocate of this issue in Nepal for many years, and the mother of children unable to acquire Nepalese citizenship, told us of the heartbreak and mental torture her children suffer for being unrecognised by the country they consider home.

Madagascar, which since early 2017 permits women to pass their nationality to their children, pointed out that the benefits of gender equal nationality laws are not only felt at an individual level but at a national level too. Reforming Madagascar’s law is understood to be a measure that helps to promote national security and reduce corruption. The state representative from Madagascar also noted at the workshop the importance of ensuring that any such amendment to the law is given retroactive effect and so benefits all Malagasy people, born before or after the laws changed. These, and other strong recommendations from the gathering, will be submitted to the Human Rights Council at its 36th session in September 2017.

The Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, a member of the steering committee for the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, will continue to support legal reform and full non-discriminatory implementation of the gender equal nationality laws through research and the promotion of human rights treaty obligations.