Dozens of nations discriminate against women in citizenship laws - study

by Ellen Wulfhorst | @EJWulfhorst | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 25 January 2016 00:01 GMT

53 countries have discriminatory nationality laws - 20 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and 16 in Middle East and North Africa

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than a quarter of the world's nations have sexist laws on nationality, such as stripping women of citizenship if they marry a foreigner, that can deprive women of access to jobs, education and other benefits available to men, a new study says.

The discriminatory laws range from forcing women to give up their acquired citizenship if they are divorced or widowed or denying children the citizenship of their mother, said the report released on Monday by Equality Now, an international human rights organization.

Not having legal citizenship can mean being unable to obtain a passport or work permit, being unable to attend public schools or living under threat of deportation, the report said.

It also can leave women stuck in abusive marriages or unable to win custody of their children, it added.

The report found 53 countries with discriminatory nationality laws, 20 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and 16 in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Sex discrimination persists in nationality and citizenship laws in over 50 countries around the world, continuing to trap women and their families in a web of sexist nationality laws," the report said.

"Too many governments have simply decided that a woman should have fewer rights than a man to pass on her citizenship to her children or her foreign spouse, or to acquire, change or keep her nationality," it said.

For example, women cannot pass their citizenship to adopted children the way men can in the Bahamas, Barbados and Mauritius, it said.

Foreign women who take on their spouse's nationality lose it if their marriage ends in Bahrain, Togo, Tunisia and Yemen, it said.

The report cited recent progress in several countries, including Senegal and Suriname, where laws were changed to give women the same rights as men to transfer their nationality to their husband and children, and Vanuatu, where married women won the right to pass their nationality to a foreign spouse on the same terms as married men.

Equality Now, which has offices in Nairobi, Amman, London and New York, conducted the research with the assistance of TrustLaw, a division of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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