Sudan's Supreme Court Reaffirms Women’s Right to Confer Nationality on Children

The Supreme Court of Sudan reaffirmed the right of Sudanese women to confer nationality on their children in a July 6, 2017 decision. This important advancement for gender equal nationality rights underscores the need for Sudan's Nationality Act to be aligned with the country’s Interim Constitution and international law.

Though the Interim Constitution (2005) enshrines the equal right of men and women to pass nationality to their children, the Sudanese Nationality Act (amended 2011) retains several provisions that discriminate against women. While Sudanese men automatically confer citizenship on their children, the children of Sudanese women and foreign fathers are required to submit an application in order to acquire citizenship. Sudanese women are also unable to confer nationality on foreign spouses, a right reserved for Sudanese men. The Nationality Act further states that nationals who acquire South Sudanese citizenship will be stripped of their Sudanese citizenship.

The Supreme Court’s decision focused on Adel Burai Ramadan, a formerly Sudanese citizen who was stripped of his nationality on the basis that his (formerly Sudanese) father acquired South Sudanese citizenship. In stripping Ramadan of this citizenship, the Ministry did not recognize Ramadan’s right to citizenship from the maternal line. The Court ordered that Sudanese citizenship be restored to Ramadan without delay.

By holding that the Interim Constitution guarantees Ramadan’s right to Sudanese citizenship, the Supreme Court’s decision is a major step towards equal nationality rights for Sudanese women. While an important milestone, the Nationality Act must be reformed to bring it in line with the Interim Constitution, thereby helping to ensure that local authorities uphold women’s right to pass nationality to their children. For the Nationality Act to enshrine gender equality, it must also uphold women’s ability to confer nationality on spouses on an equal basis with Sudanese men, in line with international human rights law.