Personal Status - Equality Now
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Personal Status

Sex discriminatory personal status laws violate women’s civil and political rights. In almost 25% of countries around the world, women, and some men, are excluded from giving their nationality or citizenship to their children and/or spouses on an equal basis,

Sex discrimination in personal status laws negatively impacts women’s ability to conduct various aspects of their daily lives. The discrimination goes beyond family law and marital relations to prohibit rights to confer citizenship, travel, participation in public life, etc. 

What is discrimination in personal status? 

Sex discrimination in personal status includes: 

  • Citizenship and nationality rights 
  • Evidence 
  • Travel 
  • Prostitution 

Why is this an issue?

Sex discrimination in personal status laws negatively impacts the ability of women to conduct various aspects of their daily lives. For the purposes of this report, we are categorizing personal status laws to include, beyond family law and marital relations (see marital status section), particularly laws that govern rights to confer citizenship, as well as travel, participation in public life, etc.

What is the impact on women and girls? 

Sex discriminatory personal status laws violate women’s civil and political rights. In almost 25% of countries around the world, women, and some men, are excluded from giving their nationality or citizenship to their children and/or spouses on an equal basis, making them and their families insecure and limiting their participation in public life and the world outside the family unit. Also in public life, if a woman’s testimony in court is worth only half that of a man’s, then she herself is seen by the law as only worth half that of a man, limiting access to justice and legal remedies. Women cannot move freely if they need the permission of their guardian to travel themselves or for their child to travel with her, or express themselves if their dress is prescribed by law. Women alone may also be subjected to punishment if they are deemed to be a “prostitute.”

What needs to change?

Equality Now continues to call for full equality in nationality rights globally building on progress since our advocacy reports, including The State We’re In - Ending Sexism in Nationality Laws. The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights is also building momentum amongst governments, UN agencies, and civil society to end sex discrimination in nationality laws. 

To achieve legal equality, we call for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and amending or repealing any sex discriminatory laws and providing constitutional guarantees of non-discrimination on the basis of sex above any other right, including to culture, tradition, and religion.

Beijing Platform for Action recommendations

Strategic Objective 1.2.: Ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice Actions to be taken by Governments: 

232(d) - Review national laws, including customary laws and legal practices in the areas of family, civil, penal, labor and commercial law in order to ensure the implementation of the principles and procedures of all relevant international human rights instruments by means of national legislation, revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex and remove gender bias in the administration of justice; •

232(b) - provide constitutional guarantees and/or enact appropriate legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex for all women and girls of all ages and assure women of all ages equal rights and their full enjoyment.

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