Gender equality, nationality and statelessness

In 25 countries around the world, women do not enjoy the same right to confer nationality to their children as men. This is a problem, not just from the point of view of the realisation of equality for men and women under the law, but also from the perspective of the avoidance of statelessness. Where a woman cannot pass on her nationality to her child, one important route for the child to acquire nationality is closed. If the child also cannot acquire nationality through the father – for instance because he is stateless, unknown or unwilling or unable to take any action that may be needed to transmit his nationality – the child will be left stateless (unless there is the possibility of acquiring nationality in the country of birth). The unequal nationality rights of women thereby have an impact on the position of children and the enjoyment of the child’s right to a nationality. In particular if the child is left stateless, this can bring difficulties for the whole family, including in the enjoyment of socio-economic rights and family life. In fact, research has shown that gender discrimination in nationality laws can tear families apart. It is also important to note that gender inequality can also manifest itself in a woman’s right to transmit nationality to her spouse, as well as her ability to retain her nationality e.g. in the event her husband is deprived of his.

The Institute is an active member of the steering committee of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights which aims to eliminate gender discrimination in nationality laws. the Institute has engaged in international advocacy through submissions to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), CEDAW and the Universal Periodic Review, in collaboration with the Global Campaign and other partners. The Institute has also engaged in national and regional level research, advocacy and capacity building on this issue, in Nepal, Madagascar and other countries, and through its global and regional training courses on statelessness. The Institute – which has created and published similar tools on the CRC and the child’s right to a nationality – is currently working on an analytical database of the Concluding Observations and Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on gender discrimination in nationality laws, as well as related interactive online resources, toolkits and training materials; and is on a resourcing drive to enable their further development, publication and free dissemination.

The third in ISI’s Statelessness Essentials Booklets Series addresses statelessness and women’s equal nationality rights in light of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The booklet draws on comprehensive research into all Concluding Observations and recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, exploring and contextualising the obligations contained in CEDAW Article 9: the article on the prohibition of gender discriminatory nationality laws. It sets out why women’s nationality rights are of such fundamental importance, both as an issue of gender equality and to protect and fulfil a range of other civil and political rights, as well as provides an insight into the mechanisms of the CEDAW Committee process, offering key information and helpful tips for engagement by civil society actors. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE BOOKLET STATELESSNESS & HUMAN RIGHTS: THE CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN.

The Institute has completed a preliminary analysis of how the problem of gender discrimination in respect of the transmission of nationality from parent to child has featured in the review of states within the framework of the Universal Periodic Review, by the CEDAW Committee and by the CRC Committee. Below are two interactive maps which allow you to explore some of these findings. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A 6-PAGE FACTSHEET.

The following map shows which 25 countries worldwide do not allow women to pass nationality to their children on equal terms with men. Hover over each country for further details of how the law is problematic. The map also shows which of these countries have received relevant recommendations through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR): switch on this layer to find out and you can also access more information by hovering/clicking on highlighted countries:

The following map shows which of the 25 countries have received recommendations from the CEDAW Committee and from the CRC Committee. Switch the different layers on or off to view this data and you can also hover over or click on highlighted countries for more information: