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Born and raised in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother, Nour was married off at age 15 to a relative of her father in Egypt. Her parents were scared that since she is not entitled to claim Lebanese citizenship through her mother, she would not be able to stay in Lebanon as an adult or have access to further education or work, leaving her vulnerable.
Shireen is not allowed to register her Jordanian-born children on her Jordanian passport because their father is from another country. She has a troubled marriage and is terrified that her husband will take the children back to his country, leaving her with few and arduous options to get them back or have access to them. She, too, thinks of marrying off her daughter early in order to give her the sense of security that she herself lacks.
In these two examples, had Nour’s father rather than her mother been Lebanese and Shireen’s husband rather than Shireen been Jordanian, the children would have had an automatic right to citizenship and would not face consequences, such as child marriage, which can result from discriminatory nationality laws.
Equality Now’s report (accessible here) documents a wide range of harmful consequences and calls on governments to remove all discrimination against women in passing on their nationality to their husbands and children. It highlights those countries, detailed in the graph below, where women do not have the same rights as men to convey their nationality, engendering much hardship for the families concerned. Please add your voice to the call for change by signing the petition.
Mali: Under the Code of Persons and the Family, Malian women can now pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on the same basis as Malian men.
Senegal: On 25 June 2013, Parliament voted into law bill No. 03/2013 amending Law No. 61-10 of 7 March 1961 on Nationality to grant Senegalese women the same rights as men to transfer their nationality to their husband and children.
Bahamas: On 8 July 2013, the Constitutional Committee recommended that the new Constitution, to be voted on in 2014, include “the amendment of the citizenship provisions to achieve gender-neutrality and full equality between men and women with respect to the acquisition or transmission of their nationality.”
Austria: On 1 August 2013, changes to the nationality law came into effect so that the unmarried father of a child born to a non-Austrian national can now transmit his Austrian nationality without fulfilling additional requirements beyond proof of paternity. The only requirement now is for paternity to be recognized by the father or a court within 8 weeks of the birth of the child, but if this is not done there is also a provision for easier acquisition by the child of Austrian citizenship.
Jordan: On 12 January 2014, the Government of Jordan gave approval for regulations to grant the foreign spouses of Jordanian women and their children certain civil rights, including residence permits and improved access to state medical care facilities, education and work in the private sector. No changes have been proposed to amend the still discriminatory nationality law.
Vanuatu: On 16 January 2014, parliament granted married women the right to pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on the same terms as married men with its assent to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act No. 39 of 2013, which amended the Citizenship Act [CAP 112].
Denmark: On 25 June 2014, the government granted unmarried fathers the same rights as unmarried mothers to transfer their nationality to their children born abroad after 1 July 2014, with the amendment by Act No. 729 of the Consolidated Act on Danish Nationality, Act No. 442 of 7 June 2004.
Suriname: On 10 July 2014 Suriname’s National Assembly passed legislation amending Law No. 4 of 24 November 1975 granting Surinamese women the same rights as men to pass their nationality to their children and spouses.
Niger: On 8 December 2014, Law No. 2014-60 of 5 November 2014 modifying the Nationality Code came into effect so that in Niger now married women can now pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on an equal basis with men.
Unmarried woman cannot pass to child born in country
Bahrainy, Brunei·, Burundiy·, Iran, Jordan#, Kuwait*, Lebanon#, Libyaǂ·, Nepal·, Omanǂ, Qatar, Saudi Arabiay,
Senegalǂ·, Somalia¤, Surinamey·, Syrian Arab Republicy, Swazilandy, United Arab Emirates#^
Unmarried woman cannot pass to child born outside country
Bahrainy, Brunei, Burundiy·, Iran, Iraqǂ·, Jordan, Kuwait*, Lebanony, Liberia·, Libya·, Mauritania·, Nepal·, Omanǂ, Qatar, Saudi Arabiay,
Senegalǂ·, Sierra Leone·, Somalia¤, Surinamey·, Swazilandy, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia·, United Arab Emirates#
Married woman cannot pass to child born in country
Bahrainy, Brunei·, Burundiy, Iran+, Jordan#, Kiribati·, Kuwait¥, Lebanon#z, Libyaǂ·, Madagascarǂ, Nepal·, Omanǂ, Qatar, Saudi Arabia·,
Senegalǂ·, Somalia¤, Suriname·, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates#^
Married woman cannot pass to child born outside country
Bahamas·, Bahrainy, Barbados, Brunei, Burundiy·, Iran+, Iraqǂ·, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanonz, Liberia·§, Libya·, Madagascarǂ, Malaysia·, Mauritania·, Nepal·, Omanǂ, Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
Senegalǂ·, Sierra Leone·, Somalia¤, Suriname·, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia·, United Arab Emirates#^
Married woman cannot pass to husband1
Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin°, Brunei, Burundi°, Cameroon°, Central African Republic, Comoros°, Congo (Republic of), Egypt, Guatemala, Guinea°, Iran, Iraq°, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia,
Mali°, Mauritania°, Morocco°, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Luciax, Saint Vincent & Grenadinesx, Saudi Arabia, Senegal°, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia¤, Sudan», Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tanzania, Thailand°, Togo°«, Tunisia°, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Yemen
Unmarried father of child born abroad cannot pass to child without additional requirements2
Austria, Denmark, United States of America
y Unless father unknown or has repudiated/not acknowledged the child
ǂ Unless father stateless or unknown
# Unless father unknown, without nationality or fatherhood not substantiated
* Not by right, but possible by decree issued by the Minister of the Interior if father unknown or not legally established
· Except under certain conditions
¤ In June 2012, Somalia drafted a Constitution providing for equality between men and women with an indication the nationality law will be amended accordingly
^ A December 2011 decree allows Emirati women married to non-nationals to pass citizenship to their children once the child reaches maturity
+ There is suggestion that citizenship is possible at age 18 for children born of Iranian women and non-national men. Several restrictions are placed on women marrying at all. For example, women need government permission to marry non-national men and Moslem women are explicitly forbidden from marrying non-Moslem men
¥ Unless mother irrevocably divorced/foreign father deceased and child resident in Kuwait until reaches majority
§ The Liberian Constitution provides that either parent can pass nationality to their children, but the nationality law restricts this. A new draft nationality law published at the end of 2012 proposes amendments to conform to the Constitution
» Sudanese mothers, unlike fathers, have to go through the process of expressly applying for citizenship for their children, which causes additional hardship, but the law provides technical equality hence the omission of Sudan from the other categories
« The Togolese nationality law discriminates against Togolese mothers passing their nationality to their children, but the Constitution and Children’s Act both provide for equal rights, hence the omission of Togo from the other categories
° Husband can apply for naturalisation under normal procedures with reduced or waived conditions
z Unless by permission of Head of State after acquiring foreign nationality and reapplying for Lebanese nationality within one year of dissolution of marriage/maturity of child and living in Lebanon
x Possible for wives to pass nationality to non-national husbands, subject to proviso that Minister can refuse on reasonable grounds
1 This does not list countries where neither wife nor husband has additional rights to pass citizenship to their non-national spouse
2 More than proof of paternity