Press release: UN Agencies call for stronger action to achieve equal nationality rights for all

Date: Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pannellists at the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Panellists at the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

15 March, New York—UN Women, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called today for increased efforts to eradicate gender inequality in nationality laws, which is a key driver of statelessness.     

In 25 countries around the world, nationality laws do not allow women to confer their nationality to their children on an equal basis as men. In more than 50 countries, women are denied equal rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality. These sex-discriminatory laws result in wide-ranging human rights violations.

At a high-level event today in New York, the three UN agencies, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights and affected women discussed the benefits of gender equality in nationality laws, and shared lessons learned from recent reforms in relevant legislations.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

The event was held at the side lines of the 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62), which this year focuses on the empowerment of rural women and girls.

Discrimination against women in nationality laws has crippling effects on their daily lives. It is one of the primary causes of statelessness, whereby a person is not recognized as citizen of any country. This can lead to the denial of basic human rights that most of us take for granted—like access to education, health care, social security, job opportunities or participation in political processes.

Sex-discriminatory nationality laws can also contribute to the risk of gender-based violence, threaten family unity, and are often linked to social marginalization and psychological distress.

Panellists at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Panellists at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Such laws and practices contradict a number of international conventions, agreements and recommendations. For example, according to General recommendation No. 34 on the rights of rural women, of the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): “States parties should ensure that rural women may acquire, change, retain or renounce their nationality, or transfer it to their children and foreign spouse under the same conditions as men, and that they are aware of their rights in this regard. States parties should also provide rural women with access to personal identification documents (such as identity cards, passports and social security numbers) and ensure that civil registration procedures, including for birth, marriage, divorce and death, are accessible in rural areas.”

However, momentum for the reform of sex-discriminatory nationality laws is increasing. Several positive developments have taken place in recent times: In 2017 alone, two countries, Madagascar and Sierra Leone, reformed their nationality laws to allow women to confer their nationality on their children on an equal basis as men. These achievements follow similar reforms made by 15 other countries in the last 15 years.

Isata Kabia, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs of the Republic of Sierra Leone speaks at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Isata Kabia, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs of the Republic of Sierra Leone speaks at the the CSW62 side event "High-Level event on Advancing Gender Equality in Nationality Laws" on 14 March. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

UN Women, UNHCR and UNICEF are redoubling their efforts to work towards a world in which no woman or child is denied basic human rights as a result of gender discrimination in nationality laws. These efforts will also contribute to the aim “to leave no one behind”, outlined in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and to end statelessness by 2024, which is the goal of the #IBelong Campaign.

About UN Women

UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide. www.unwomen.org.

About UNHCR

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. For more information, visit www.unhcr.org.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.

For further information, please contact:
Oisika Chakrabarti, UN Women, +1 6467814522, oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org
Aikaterini Kitidi, UNHCR, +41 79 580 8334, kitidi[at]unhcr.org
Kerry L. Neal, UNICEF, +1 212 326 7650, kneal[at]unicef.org