“Discriminatory laws prevent women and children from accessing state services, such as schooling and healthcare, and from getting work.”
This data is still being collected, and will be added to the project as soon as possible.
Estimated girls & women affected
This is the number of people who took action in our campaigns to end discriminatory nationality and citizenship laws.
Estimated community members affected
Thanks to all our supporters, our campaign has picked up tremendous momentum over the past few months. At the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, we launched the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws in partnership with UNHCR, UN Women, Women’s Refugee Commission, Equal Rights Trust and Tilburg University. This two-year campaign seeks to end discriminatory nationality laws around the world by building an international coalition to petition governments to pledge change. www.equalnationalityrights.org Country progress:
- Austria: The government approved the reform of their laws to allow unmarried Austrian fathers to pass on their nationality upon proof of paternity.
- Lebanon: The Ministerial Committee recommended that restrictions be eased on children of Lebanese women married to non-national husbands.
- Jordan: The government approved regulations that would grant the foreign spouses of Jordanian women and their children residence permits and improved access to medical care, education, and work.
We updated our report, Campaign to End Sex Discrimination in Nationality & Citizenship Laws, which documents harmful consequences and calls on governments to remove all discrimination against women in passing on their nationality to their husbands and children. Available here: www.equalitynow.org/nationality_report
“Discriminatory laws prevent women and children from accessing state services, such as schooling and healthcare, and from getting work. It can also limit people's freedom of movement and, in some cases, increase anxiety levels over fears that a husband and child with a different nationality could be deported.” - Jacqui Hunt, Director of Equality Now’s London Office
Risks and challenges
Eighteen years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, and eight years past the UN’s set target date of revoking all sex discriminatory laws, numerous laws that explicitly discriminate against women, including in the area of nationality, are still in force. Governments are still failing to prioritize the elimination of all discrimination on the basis of sex to comply with their international legal obligations, as well as their own national obligations to ensure equality.
What we’ve learned
We’ve learned that an effective way to get countries to repeal or amend sex discriminatory nationality laws is to encourage leadership on the issue among the countries themselves. In the past year, Austria and Senegal have reformed their laws to achieve gender parity in nationality matters. These countries can take the lead as “champions” and encourage other countries to follow suit.
We will continue our targeted campaign for the repeal of discriminatory nationality and citizenship laws with partners around the world. In addition, during the 20th anniversary review of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action - the landmark international declaration for women’s rights - the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws will invite governments to make time-bound pledges to remove gender discrimination laws from their nationality laws.
Amount spent so far
Public Advocacy Campaigns
Communications & Publicity Legal Research
Our campaign to end discriminatory nationality laws has been in the news including:
- Women's nationality is focus of new campaign for gender equality (The Guardian)
- Quand la nationalité n'appartient qu'aux hommes: une campagne mondiale pour changer les lois (Les Nouvelles)
- Equal Nationality Rights: It’s Time to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws (Thomson Reuters)
- SCW hails Cabinet’s resolution on amending 1963 Bahraini Citizenship Law (Bahrain News Agency)
- Rights group calls for changes to ‘discriminatory’ Citizenship Law (The Jordan Times)
Thank you for supporting equal citizenship rights for women!
It’s been a busy few months:
Bahamas: The Constitutional Committee recommended an amendment to citizenship provisions to achieve gender-neutrality and full equality between men and women. The vote is scheduled for November.
Senegal: Parliament voted to amend its nationality law to grant Senegalese women the same rights as men to transfer their nationality to their spouses and children.
We also advocated at the highest international levels:
Our Senior Policy Advisor, Shelby Quast, presented our nationality report in Washington, DC during a panel on gender discrimination and statelessness with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor and the Women's Refugee Commission. After the panel, the State Department publicized the report via social media.
Our London Director, Jacqui Hunt, addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on the need for speedy reform of discriminatory nationality laws.
Risks and challenges
Legal advocacy can be a very protracted process, as each country has its own complex legal systems to navigate, which need to be handled one at a time. There are currently 19 countries in the world in which married women cannot pass their nationality on to their children who were born in country. 52 countries won’t let women pass their citizenship on to their husbands either at all or without difficulty. Getting governments to change their laws is a slow process, but we are dedicated to seeing it through, as every changed law gives a whole country full of women hope for a more equal future for themselves and their children!
”National legislation should be revised so women and men can extend citizenship to each other and to their children. It will send a clear signal that everyone should be valued equally in a fairer society, where everyone can reach their full potential.” -- Jacqui Hunt
”We must maintain pressure. After demonstrations, letters to the King, Prime minister, and Parliament, Jordanian women and their children continue to suffer.” -- Nima Habashna, My mother is Jordanian and her nationality is my right campaign
We will continue to petition and recommend changes to governments and make submissions to international bodies to end discrimination in nationality laws around the world. Following the June meeting in Geneva, we are also planning to work more closely with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Women’s Refugee Commission to further this work.
Following the release of our Campaign to End Sex Discrimination in Nationality and Citizenship Laws report, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ Statelessness Unit asked us to collaborate on advocacy in this issue.
You can read the report here.
Removing the vulnerability and second-class status of women and their families living without the security of a nationality.
Why we care: Women should have the same rights as men to pass their nationality on to their spouse and children; the severe consequences of the inability to do so causes great hardships for families.
How we are solving this: By petitioning governments to remove all discrimination against women that prevents them from passing on their nationality to their husbands and children.
Nationality, sometimes called citizenship, is essential to attaining a safe and secure life and being able to access societal rights to education, healthcare, employment, marriage choices and much more. Most people take their nationality for granted, not realizing that without it, going about our daily lives and having access to basic choices would be far more difficult, if not impossible.
Too often the laws governing citizenship are based on–and so reinforce–stereotypical roles for women and men. This not only denies equality to women and men, it also causes unnecessary suffering, vulnerability and harm to all affected by the discrimination.
To illustrate the negative effects of sex discriminatory nationality laws, here are some real-life examples from our work in Jordan and Lebanon:
- Shireen is not allowed to register her Jordanian-born children on her Jordanian passport because their father is from another country. She has a troubled marriage and is terrified that her husband will take the children back to his country, leaving her with few and arduous options to get them back or have access to them. She is thinking of marrying off her daughter early in order to give her the sense of security that she herself lacks.
- Bahamian-born Annie-Lavel is married to Haitian-born Maxime, who has lived in the Bahamas for more than 14 years. They’re expecting their third child. Purely because she is a woman (rather than a man) married to a foreigner, Annie-Lavel was not able to automatically pass her nationality on to Maxime. He managed to get a permit to work in the country, but lost it after a disagreement with his employer. The family lost their home in a fire and Maxime has been forced to work odd jobs, illegally, to support his family and to afford the costs associated with the lengthy process of getting a resident spouse permit. Some of his employers exploit his situation by not paying him and he has been picked up and detained several times by immigration control, forcing a pregnant Annie-Lavel to beg for his release. This has severely strained the family emotionally and financially.
- Born and raised in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother, Nour was married off at age 15 to a relative of her father in Egypt. Her parents were scared that since she is not entitled to claim Lebanese citizenship through her mother, she would not be able to stay in Lebanon as an adult or have access to higher education or work, leaving her vulnerable.
In these examples, had the situation been reversed, i.e. father married to a non-national, their spouses and children would have had an automatic right to citizenship.
Equality Now has been campaigning to end laws that discriminate against women for more than 13 years in order to improve their safety and security. Nationality laws are very complex, but removing any discrimination between men and women is straightforward and can be achieved through immediate legal reform.
To that end, we have collected information on the nearly 60 countries around the world that still discriminate against women on citizenship. In those same countries, men are permitted to pass their nationality to their wives and their children. Rooted in sex inequality on multiple levels, this is gender discrimination. We will, therefore, develop and continue national campaigns to push for changes that will alleviate the suffering and instability of those involved. At the same time, we will push for global change so that countries can use others’ example to make swift and effective changes to the law.
The success of these campaigns has the potential to enormously improve the situation for women and their families around the world. Please help us to take advantage of momentum on this issue which is already showing real change.