On International Women’s Day earlier this month the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights launched a short video that explains the harm caused by gender discrimination in nationality laws and the many benefits of gender-equal nationality laws to individuals, families, and countries as a whole.
Despite global momentum to end discrimination against women – and significant research proving that gender equality is in every country’s best interest – today there are still twenty-five countries that deny women the right to pass their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. There are approximately fifty countries that have some remaining gender-discriminatory provisions, such as denying women the same right as men to pass citizenship to a non-national spouse or linking women’s citizenship to their marital status.
This discrimination is undermining women’s equal status in society and the family. It is also a root cause of statelessness and results in affected persons facing obstacles in accessing education, healthcare, formal employment, inheritance and property rights. Furthermore, as highlighted last week by the UN Secretary-General’s Senior Adviser on Policy, Ana Maria Menéndez, “women’s inability to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses can result in family separation.” With all this harm caused by these unjust laws, it is clear that sustainable development cannot be realized in the absence of reforms to achieve gender-equal nationality laws.
As depicted in the video, these unnecessary and harmful laws are in many cases a legacy of colonial rule, with the gender discrimination based on the discriminatory laws of the former colonial powers. Today, the majority of countries worldwide – including the former colonialists– have removed gender discrimination in their nationality laws. It is the right thing to do and gender-equal nationality laws make countries stronger.
The good news is, many countries that have yet to eradicate this discrimination are taking steps to do so. In December 2018 alone, two countries – Lesotho and Malawi* – passed reforms to remove gender-discriminatory provisions in their nationality laws. This month, civil society in Lebanon and Malaysia ramped up calls for their governments to uphold women’s equality by enacting reforms to enshrine citizens’ equal right to pass citizenship to their children and spouse – regardless of whether the citizen is a man or a woman.
75% of countries have nationality laws that treat women and men as equal citizens. It’s time for 100%.
* Malawi presently retains nationality law provisions which deny women the ability to pass nationality to non-national spouses on an equal basis with men