Sub-Saharan Africa

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of countries with nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender and includes roughly a third of countries that deny women equal rights to confer nationality to their children.

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However, the region has also witnessed a significant number of reforms in recent years towards more gender equal nationality laws. Several African States, including Burundi, Liberia, Sudan and Togo, have enshrined gender equality in their Constitutions through recent reforms, but have yet to reform their nationality laws to ensure compliance with their Constitutions. Furthermore, at a February 2015 convening of Ministers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), regional governments committed to enact reforms to realize gender equal nationality laws, through the Abidjan Declaration.

The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child enshrine the principles of non-discrimination, equal protection under the law, and the right to nationality. In April 2013, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (African Commission) passed Resolution 234 on the Right to Nationality, which reaffirmed the equal rights of men and women with respect to nationality. However, as noted in the African Commission’s report on the Right to Nationality, “the right to a nationality is still not fully recognized as a fundamental human right on the African continent, as the current legal framework does not allow individuals to effectively protect themselves in the exercise of their right to a nationality.” For this reason, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons has called for the adoption of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Right to a Nationality, which would enshrine gender equal nationality laws.

The Global Campaign joins civil society groups across Africa in supporting the adoption of a Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Right to a Nationality, while also advancing national reform efforts in affected countries.

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