Background Note on Gender Equality, Nationality Laws and Statelessness 2022

Published: 4/Mar/2022
Source: UNHCR

Nationality laws which do not grant women equality with men in conferring nationality to their children are a cause of statelessness and a concern for UNHCR under its mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness. Since 2012, UNHCR has issued an annual background note on gender equality in legal provisions in nationality laws which relate to conferral of nationality to children. This Background Note provides the most up-to-date information available to UNHCR as of March 2022.

Sixty years ago, the nationality laws of the majority of States did not provide equal rights to women in nationality matters. This has radically changed for the better since the adoption in 1979 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). UNHCR’s survey of nationality legislation reveals that equality between men and women relating to conferral of nationality upon children2 has not yet been attained in 25 countries, and these countries are located in almost all parts of the world. A significant number of these States are found in the Middle East and North Africa (twelve countries). Five States in Asia and the Pacific and six States in Sub-Saharan Africa do not grant mothers equal rights as fathers to confer their nationality on their children, and the same is the case in two states in the Americas. These States are listed in the table on page 6 and an analysis of those countries’ laws is presented on pages 6-9. It is  important to note that an additional group of States grant equality to men and women with regard to the nationality of children but not with regard to acquisition, change or retention of nationality upon change in civil status.

Gender inequality in nationality laws can create statelessness where children cannot acquire nationality from their fathers. This can occur (i) where the father is stateless; (ii) where the laws of the father’s country do not permit conferral of nationality in certain circumstances, such as
when the child is born abroad; (iii) where a father is unknown or not married to the mother at the time of birth; (iv) where a father has been unable to fulfill administrative steps to confer his nationality or acquire proof of nationality for his children because, for example, he has  died, has been forcibly separated from his family, or cannot fulfill onerous documentation or other requirements; or (v) where a father has been unwilling to fulfill administrative steps to confer his nationality or acquire proof of nationality for his children, for example if he has  abandoned the family. Ensuring gender equality in nationality laws thus helps to mitigate the risks of statelessness. It is against this background that UNHCR promotes gender equality in nationality laws as part of its mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness.

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African states where gender discrimination in transmission of nationality to children listed in the report are: Burundi, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, Sudan and Togo.

Themes: Acquisition by children, International standards, Discrimination, Gender, Statelessness
Regions: Burundi, Somalia, Sudan, International, Libya, Mauritania, Liberia, Togo
Year: 2022