The African Charter, in common with all other international human rights treaties, prohibits discrimination in enjoyment of the other rights the Charter sets out. In the case of nationality, however, the law assumes some level of discrimination – because one of the criteria for acquisition of nationality is based on descent – and this is permitted by international law. However, certain types of discrimination are impermissible.

The most common form of discrimination in nationality laws is that men and women have different rights to transmit their nationality to their children.  Although discrimination based on gender is rapidly reducing, there are still more a dozen countries in Africa that give a woman reduced rights to transmit nationality to a child, and more who limit transmission to her husband.  In Africa, discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and (in North Africa) religion, is also in place in around a dozen countries.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 18) also prohibits discrimination against disabled people in relation to the right to a nationality. Several countries have requirements for good health in relation to naturalisation that would not be in compliance with this provision.

In many countries there is no discriminatory element in the law itself but discrimination is pervasive in practice.

Key Resources

"Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter (without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status)"

Article 2, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

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