Twenty-seven countries worldwide continue to discriminate against women in their ability to confer their nationality on their children on an equal basis with men. Gender discrimination in nationality laws contravenes Article 9(2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and can lead to statelessness when fathers are stateless or also unable to confer their nationality on their children. In addition, over 60 countries deny women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality, including the ability of women to confer nationality on their non-national spouses. Such provisions contravene Article 9(1) of CEDAW.
Women’s inability to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses puts huge financial, psychological and physical strains on families, often resulting in an intergenerational spiral of destitution and depression.
Statelessness resulting from gender discrimination in nationality laws can have serious and far reaching consequences, often leading to violations of fundamental human rights. Stateless people face many barriers and obstacles: without citizenship or identity documents they may be unable to own or rent property, secure formal employment or access services such as public health care, education and social welfare benefits. Statelessness impacts individuals' ability to marry and couples' decisions to start a family.
Equality Now, the Equal Rights Trust, Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, UNHCR, UN Women and the Women’s Refugee Commission have formed a steering committee to lead the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights. Organizations and agencies are invited to join the Campaign Coalition.
The campaign aims to eliminate gender discrimination in nationality laws.
Build a Coalition: The Campaign will build a wider coalition of interested stakeholders, including UN agencies, international, regional and local NGOs, academics and civil society partners.
National Advocacy Strategy: In consultation with regional, national and local organizations, the Campaign will develop national advocacy strategies for law reform in target countries. The Campaign will reach out to local, national and regional NGOs, human rights and women’s rights civil society organizations, national human rights commissions and other government and nongovernmental entities in countries that maintain discrimination to identify potential entry points for promoting change.
Global Advocacy Strategy: The Campaign will develop a global advocacy strategy which will support national-level advocacy. This will include advocacy targeted at key government missions at the UN and national governments, providing information to relevant UN Treaty Body and special mechanisms, and mobilizing additional UN and civil society actors. For example, members of the Campaign have written to the Minister of Justice in each country to highlight the issue and the need for reform. In addition, the Campaign is being launched at the Human Rights Council in June 2014, which many governments will be attending. Equality Now, with the support of the Women's Refugee Commission, has submitted a statement to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council, Ending sex discrimination in citizenship and nationality laws.
Pledges at Beijing +20 Review: Under the Beijing Platform of Action – the outcome of the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference – governments pledged to remove gender discrimination from all their laws with a target date of 2005 set for achievement of this goal. The Beijing +20 review will take place during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2015. Through joint coalition letter-writing and targeted advocacy, the Campaign will continue to encourage relevant governments to reform discriminatory nationality laws by making time-bound pledges leading to and during the Beijing + 20 review event. States which have recently reformed their laws can also play a supportive role, encouraging other governments to follow suit. Implementation of these pledges will form the on-going work of the Campaign in 2015 and beyond.
Technical Assistance to Local Partners: Training, technical assistance and advocacy support will be provided to local civil society organizations such as women’s groups and human rights organizations to support their efforts at promoting reform in nationality laws. Grassroots mobilization is deemed vital in securing changes in nationality laws that still discriminate on the basis of gender.
Identify “champion” countries and “ambassadors”: Identify countries that have recently reformed their nationality laws to remove gender discrimination who could be “champions” in their region and/or internationally and encourage other countries to follow suit. Identify high-profile individuals who could serve as “ambassadors” for the cause of removing gender discrimination from nationality laws.