Campaign to End Sex Discrimination in Nationality and Citizenship Laws

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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 below, where women and men do not have the same rights to convey, acquire, change or retain, their nationality, engendering much hardship for the families concerned.

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UPDATES

Since 2013 there has been significant progress, both in terms of the amendment of discriminatory laws at the national level and the growing global movement for an end to discrimination within nationality laws.

A number of countries have either removed, or taken steps to address, discriminatory provisions within their nationality laws:

Bahamas
: Following the House of Assembly's 2 March 2016 passage of four bills that would eliminate the discriminatory nationality provisions in the Constitution, the Senate also voted yes on 9 March. The Bahamian public will now have the opportunity to vote to amend the Constitution in a referendum that may be held as early as the end of July.

On 8 July 2013, the Constitutional Committee recommended that the new Constitution, yet to be voted on, 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.”

Niger: On 8 December 2014, Law No. 2014-60 of 5 November 2014 modifying the Nationality Code came into effect so that married women can now pass their nationality to their foreign spouse on an equal basis with men.

Suriname: On 10 July 2014 Suriname’s National Assembly passed legislation granting Surinamese women the same rights as men to pass their nationality to their children and spouses.

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.

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.

Jordan: On 12 January 2014, the Government of Jordan approved regulations to grant the foreign spouses of Jordanian women and their children certain  rights or “privileged services” (Mazaya), including residence permits and improved access to state medical care facilities, education and work in the private sector. However, for the most part, the improvements have yet to be implemented. No changes have been proposed to amend the still discriminatory nationality law.

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 requirement now is for paternity to be recognized by the father or a court within eight 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.

Senegal: On 25 June 2013, Parliament amended the law to grant Senegalese women the same rights as men to transfer their nationality to their husband and children.


Download the full infographic here.

THE STATE WE’RE IN
(Struck out countries have removed their discriminatory provisions as of 2013. We welcome any information or updates on the status of the nationality laws for the countries below via info@equalitynow.org.)

Discrimination Affecting Children

Unmarried mother cannot pass to child born in country on an equal basis with unmarried father
Bahrainɸ, Brunei, Burundiɸ·, Iran, Jordanɸ, Kuwait*, Lebanonɸ, Libyaɸ·, Nepal·«, Omanɸ, Qatar, Saudi Arabiaɸ, Senegalǂ·, Somalia¤, Surinameɸ·, Swazilandɸ, Syrian Arab Republicɸ, United Arab Emiratesɸ^

Unmarried father cannot pass to child born in country on an equal basis with unmarried mother
Bahamas, Madagascar

Unmarried mother cannot pass to child born outside country on an equal basis with unmarried father
Bahrainɸ, Brunei, Burundiɸ·, Iran, Iraqɸ·ꖴ, Jordan, Kuwait*, Lebanonɸ, Liberia·, Libya·, Mauritania·, Nepal·«, Omanɸ, Qatar, Saudi Arabiaɸ, Senegalɸ·, Sierra Leone·, Somalia¤,Surinameɸ·, Swazilandɸ, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia·, United Arab Emiratesɸ

Married mother cannot pass to child born in country on an equal basis with married father
Bahrainɸ, Brunei, Burundiɸ√, Iran+, Jordanɸ, Kiribati·, Kuwait, LebanonΩɸ, Libyaɸ·, Madagascarɸ, Nepal·«, Omanߐ, Qatar, Saudi Arabia·, Senegalɸ·, Somalia¤, Suriname·, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emiratesɸ^

Married mother cannot pass to child born outside country on an equal basis with married father
Bahamas·ꕺ, Bahrainɸ, Barbados, Brunei, Burundiɸ·, Iran+, Iraqɸ·ꖴ, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia·§, Libya·, Madagascarɸ, Malaysia·, Mauritania·, Nepal·«, Omanߐ, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegalɸ·, Sierra Leone·, Somalia¤, Suriname·, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia·, United Arab Emiratesɸ^

Unmarried father of child born abroad cannot pass to child without additional requirements beyond proof of paternity
Austria, Denmark, United States of America, Madagascar, Malaysia

Unmarried father of child born abroad cannot pass to child at all
Bahamas, Barbados

Naturalised mother cannot pass to children on an equal basis with naturalised father
Yemen

Women cannot pass nationality to adopted children on an equal basis with men

Bahamas, Barbados, Kiribati, Mauritius, Solomon Islands

Foreign mother who was born in country cannot pass to child born in country on an equal basis with foreign father who was born in country
Iraq

If a father’s nationality changes, his children may cease to be citizens without consideration of the mother’s nationality
Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Madagascar, Mauritania, Omanߢ, Pakistan, Sudan

Discrimination Affecting Spouses/Marriage

Married woman cannot pass to foreign spouse on an equal basis with married man
Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladeshʊ, 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, Mauritania°, Morocco, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Omanߒ, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Luciax, Saint Vincent & Grenadinesx, Saudi Arabia, Senegal°, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia¤, Sudan», Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tanzania, Thailand°, Togo°«, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Yemen

Married man cannot pass to foreign spouse on an equal basis with married woman
Philippines, Tunisia

Woman who has lost her nationality of origin through marriage cannot regain it on the termination of marriage
Egypt, Iraq

Foreign woman who takes spouse’s nationality automatically loses it upon termination of marriage
Bahrainɵ, Togoߥ, Tunisia, Yemen,

Woman automatically loses nationality of origin upon marrying spouse of another nationality
Iran, Madagascar, Singapore, Yemen

Foreign woman automatically acquires her husband’s nationality at the time of the marriage or on his acquisition of citizenship
Somalia

Key
ꕺ    Unless child renounces other citizenship
ɸ    Unless one or more of the following applies: father unknown; father has repudiated/not acknowledged the child; father stateless; father of unknown nationality; fatherhood not substantiated
ߐ    Except under very restrictive circumstances
ⵚ    Mother has to be unknown or of unknown nationality
√    Express application can be made
*    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
«    See Annex
°    Husband can apply for naturalisation under normal procedures with reduced or waived conditions
Ω    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
ɵ    Upon divorce and only if she has retained her nationality of origin or acquired another one
ʊ    Also applies to naturalised women
ⵡ    In the case of joint adoption
∫    Unless was residing or came back to reside in Egypt and declares her wish to recover her nationality to the Minister of the Interior
ⵖ    Minor children will forfeit nationality if, as a result of their father's change in nationality, they acquire the new nationality as a result of applicable law but they can decide to choose the Egyptian nationality during the second year of reaching majority
ⵣ    Men who are married to Iranian women and have a child with the Iranian national may apply for governmental approval to become a national
ꕊ    Only if the laws of the spouse’s nation automatically impose their nationality on her
ꖴ    There is a possible contradiction in the law – see Annex
ꖷ    Unless she is in Iraq at the time of application (not explicitly resident)
ⵘ    If children have another nationality and if his spouse’s nationality changes also
ⵛ    Naturalised wife is also not permitted to pass to foreign spouse on same basis
ⵢ    If marriage dissolves within 2 years and she won’t be rendered stateless
ꔚ    If the minor is or was the national of any other country
ꔮ    Unless she is stripped of her nationality by country of origin
ꕑ    Although under Article 3 an Emirati man can pass to a foreign spouse, “In all instances, the husband shall not affiliate to his wife’s nationality.”  
ꕢ    If she has not held Yemeni nationality for 4 years and was not married for at least 8 years under Article 11
ꕥ    Yemeni woman who married Muslim foreigner keeps nationality if she wants to
ߒ    Naturalisation requirements only slightly reduced for foreign husband AND Omani wife must have had a son with the foreign husband
ߢ    At father’s request and if father’s new country gives children nationality; regaining Omani citizenship for minor children only possible through the father
ߥ    Divorce, though note equality under Article 149 of the Togolese Civil Code
ⴲ    When marriage is deemed void but no guard against statelessness
ⴳ    If a naturalised man loses his nationality, his children and naturalised wife may cease to be citizens subject to certain conditions
    Under Yemen’s 1990 law there was also discrimination in passing to children but we believe this was amended in 2010