The Kuwait Nationality Law of 1959 does not recognize the right of Kuwaiti women to transmit their nationality to non-Kuwaiti spouses and children on equal terms with Kuwaiti men. Article 2 of the Law states that “any person born in, or outside, Kuwait whose father is a Kuwaiti national shall be a Kuwaiti national himself”.
Equality Now has previously highlighted examples of sex discrimination in the Kuwaiti nationality law in its report, The State We’re In – Ending Sexism in Nationality Laws, including:
(i) married and unmarried Kuwaiti women cannot pass their nationality to children born in or outside the country on an equal basis with men;
(ii) if a father’s nationality changes, his children may cease to be citizens without consideration of the mother’s nationality; and
(iii) a married woman cannot pass her nationality to her foreign spouse on an equal basis with married man.
Several legislative proposals have been submitted to the Kuwaiti Parliament to amend Article 2 of the Nationality Law. In 2017, two members of parliament, Al Hamidi Al Subaie and Dr. Khalil Ali, submitted a proposal to amend Article 2 of the Law to state “anyone is considered Kuwaiti whomever is born in Kuwait or outside to a Kuwaiti father or mother”. The other legislative proposal would grant the children of Kuwaiti women married to non-nationals the right to acquire the nationality upon reaching the age of 21, with certain pre-conditions including residence in Kuwait until reaching adulthood. Both of these proposals are still pending.
The Nationality Law of Kuwait, which denies women equality with men in terms of nationality, undermines a woman’s status as an equal citizen and contradicts the Kuwaiti Constitution, which stipulates in Article 29 that “all people are equal in human dignity and in public rights and duties before the law…” and Article 7 “justice, liberty and equality are the pillars of society…”. The Law also contradicts many of the international human rights treaties ratified by Kuwait, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In November 2017, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the body that monitors the implementation of CEDAW, in its concluding observation on the fifth periodic report of Kuwait stated that it
“[R]emains concerned about the persistent discrimination, under the Nationality Act, between women and men, and the denial of the right of women to acquire, change, retain and transmit their nationality. In particular, it notes the detrimental impact of the Act on Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men, as they may not transmit their nationality to their spouses or children, who are thus precluded from political participation and have limited access to education, employment and public housing”.
The Committee recommended the State party “amend the Nationality Act to recognize the right of Kuwaiti women to transmit their nationality to non-Kuwaiti spouses and children on equal terms with Kuwaiti men, and to eliminate barriers faced by Kuwaiti women married to non-Kuwaiti men in gaining access to public housing”. Similarly, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in its concluding observations on Kuwait issued in September 2017, “reiterates its recommendation (see CERD/C/KWT/15-20, para. 18) that the State party modify the Nationality Act to allow Kuwaiti women married to foreigners to pass on their nationality to their children and spouses on an equal footing with Kuwaiti men”.
The CRC committee as well as Human Rights Committee have also urged Kuwait to ensure gender equality in the 1959 Nationality Act and to undertake a comprehensive review of all existing laws that affect gender equality.