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Ending gender discrimination in nationality laws

Press Releases, 18 June 2014

Geneva, 18 June 2014 An international campaign to end gender discrimination in nationality laws was launched today by a coalition of civil society groups, supported by UN Women and the UN refugee agency. The campaign is urging countries around the world to reform their laws so that women have the same right as men to transmit their nationality to their children and foreign spouses and in their ability to change and retain their nationality.

Achieving gender equality in nationality laws would have a major impact on one of the major causes of statelessness and is an important step to ensure equality and non-discrimination around the world.

Volker Türk, director of international protection at the UN refugee agency said: "This campaign is asking states to make a straightforward amendment to their nationality laws. In many cases all it takes is the simple addition of a few words to a nationality law so that it refers to conferral of nationality by women as well as men. Introduction of gender equality will have a dramatic impact in preventing and reducing statelessness around the world."

Gender discrimination in nationality laws has far-reaching consequences on all aspects of family life and is a significant cause of statelessness. The inability of women to pass on their nationality on an equal basis as men can result in a range of restrictions for their children and foreign spouses, including in their ability to study, work, travel, access healthcare and to fully participate in society.

Worldwide, 27 countries maintain provisions in their nationality laws which prevent mothers from passing on their nationality to their children on the same basis as fathers. This leads to statelessness where the father is without a nationality or unable to confer his nationality under the law of his state, including where he has died or abandoned the family. Some fathers may also be unwilling to take the administrative steps to document the nationality of their children.

In over 60 countries which do not allow women to acquire, change or retain their nationality equally with men, women and their foreign spouses can be left vulnerable to statelessness.

There has been a positive trend with a number of countries reforming their laws to ensure gender parity in nationality matters in recent years. In the past ten years, 11 countries have reformed their laws to achieve gender parity in nationality matters: Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, Morocco, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tunisia, Yemen, Monaco and Senegal.

The campaign was launched at a side event at the 26th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva and is led by the Women's Refugee Commission along with Equality Now, Equal Rights Trust and Tilburg University.

The campaign will advance advocacy, training and research initiatives and leads up to UNHCR's own campaign to end statelessness, to be launched in September 2014.

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