Citizenship in Eswatini is governed by Chapter IV of the 2005 Constitution, and by the 1992 Citizenship Act. The Constitution provides for gender equality in transmission of citizenship to children born before it comes into effect, but provides that only the father can transmit citizenship to children born after that date; while a woman may not transmit citizenship to her foreign husband.
The act does not conform to the constitutional provisions, leaving room for confusion as to the rules that apply. Article 268 of the Constitution states that existing law remains in effect; and some provisions of the act are not affected by the Constitution.
Swaziland was formerly a “British protectorate”. However, Swaziland’s transition to independence did not follow the usual pattern of other protectorates, since it passed through an 18-month transition period from 1967 to 1968 as a “British protected state”, attaining full independence on 6 September 1968. Accordingly, the first citizenship provisions were included in the 1967 constitution annexed to the Swaziland Constitution Order (a UK statutory instrument), supplemented by the Citizenship Act No. 36 of 1967, and then replaced by the 1968 constitution, annexed to the Swaziland Independence Order. Whereas the 1967 constitution provided that every person born in Swaziland was a citizen, the 1968 constitution established a descent based system through the father only. However, existing citizens under the 1967 constitution retained that status.
In 2006, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the fact that the law in Eswatini restricts the rights of women to pass nationality to their children. The Committee welcomed steps taken by Eswatini to improve birth registration for children but remained concerned at the overall low level of registration; it repeated these concerns in 2021.