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Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws

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© UNHCR/J.Saidi

UNHCR places great importance on promoting gender equality in nationality laws to prevent statelessness from arising. In some countries legislation does not allow mothers to confer their nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers.

Although many states have eradicated this gender inequality from their nationality laws, 27 countries globally are yet to ensure equality in this regard. UNHCR will continue to work with states and other stakeholders to achieve universal gender equality in nationality matters.

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Zeinab and ManalPlay video

Zeinab and Manal

Zeinab and Manal: "It is an obstacle to everything: marriage, work... everything."

Statelessness and Women

Statelessness can arise when citizenship laws do not treat men and women equally. Statelessness bars people from rights that most people take for granted such as getting a job, buying a house, travelling, opening a bank account, getting an education, accessing health care. It can even lead to detention.

In some countries, nationality laws do not allow mothers to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis as fathers and this creates the risk that these children will be left stateless. In others, women cannot acquire, change or retain their nationality on an equal basis as men. More than 40 countries still discriminate against women with respect to these elements.

Fortunately, there is a growing trend for states to remedy gender discrimination in their nationality laws, as a result of developments in international human rights law and helped by vigorous advocacy from women's rights groups. The women and children depicted here have faced problems over nationality.

Statelessness and Women