Malawi: Parliament Passes Law Allowing Dual Citizenship

Published: 27/Dec/2018
Source: Library of Congress

(Dec. 27, 2018) On December 12, 2018, Malawi’s 193-member unicameral National Assembly reportedly passed the Malawi Citizenship Amendment Bill to amend the 1966 Citizenship Act (hereinafter “the Principal Act”). If enacted, the new law would permit Malawians who have acquired the citizenship of other countries to retain their Malawi citizenship. (Malawi Parliament Passes Bill Allowing Dual Citizenship, MALAWI24 (Dec. 13, 2018).) Before it can take effect, as required under the Constitution, the Bill must be signed by the country’s president. (CONSTITUTION OF MALAWI, 1994 (as amended through 2017), §§ 49, 73 & 89, Constitute Project website.)

The Principal Act allows certain citizens to maintain dual citizenship in limited instances. The Act states that “[n]o citizen of Malawi, being a person of full age and capacity, shall be entitled to be also a citizen of any other country.” (Citizenship Act 28 of 1966, § 6 (July 6, 1966), Malawi Legal Information Institute (MALAWLII) website.) It permits children to hold citizenship of another country in addition to their Malawi citizenship until they reach the age of twenty-one. However, persons in this category lose their Malawi citizenship one year after their twenty-first birthday unless they renounce the foreign citizenship and declare, using the appropriate form, their intention to retain Malawi citizenship. (Id. § 7.) A female citizen who acquires the citizenship of a foreign country through marriage loses her Malawi citizenship unless she renounces her foreign citizenship and declares in writing her intention to keep her Malawi citizenship. (Id. § 9.) In addition to the above-described scenarios, persons who acquire the citizenship of another country by operation of law lose their Malawi citizenship one year from the day of acquiring the foreign citizenship unless, using the prescribed form, they renounce the foreign citizenship and declare their intention to retain their Malawi citizenship. (Id. § 10.) If the persons in this particular scenario are children, the loss of citizenship would occur on their twenty-second birthday. (Id.)

Nicholas Dausi, the Minister of Homeland Security, is said to have praised the National Assembly for passing progressive legislation that seeks to empower women, stating “I think Malawian women can celebrate that they have a government that is at the heart of women emancipation.” (Austin Kakande, Malawi Adopts Dual Citizenship Concept, MBC (Dec. 13, 2018).) In 2015, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) rebuked Malawi for having a citizenship law that discriminated against women, stating,

[t]he Citizenship Act of 1966, presently in effect, discriminates against women in respect of their ability to retain their nationality and their ability to confer nationality to a foreign spouse. Such distinctions in the retention and transmission of citizenship violate the right to equality, and constitute discrimination on the basis of sex. As illustrated above, under Article 9(1) of the [CEDAW] Convention, Malawi is required to ensure that women enjoy equal rights with men to acquire, change and retain their nationality, while the Committee has confirmed that Article 9 also creates an obligation to ensure equality between men and women in the ability to confer nationality to spouses. (CEDAW, Malawi  ̶  62nd Pre-Sessional Working Group Committee (9–13 March 2015) (Jan. 23, 2015), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website.)

It is unclear if the Bill would allow women married to foreigners to confer their Malawi citizenship to their spouses, a privilege exclusively available to men at present. (Citizenship Act § 16.)

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Themes: Dual Nationality
Regions: Malawi
Year: 2018