Twenty-six countries deny mothers the ability to confer nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. Roughly 50 countries maintain other provisions in their nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender. These discriminatory laws result in significant and wide-ranging human rights violations and are a leading cause of statelessness.
On Tuesday, March 8th, Catherine Harrington and Deepti Gurung spoke about the issue of gender equal nationality rights. A total of 21 members joined us from around the globe, with 10 countries represented.
In this webinar, Catherine Harrington, the Campaign Manager for the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, gave an overview of gender nationality discrimination laws in which mothers are unable to pass their nationality onto their children.
In 2014, the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights started to align efforts to work across countries and regions to eliminate any gender discrimination in nationality laws around the world. Despite violating international law, 26 countries currently do not allow mothers to pass on their nationality, while roughly 50 countries maintain other provisions in their nationality laws that discriminate on the basis of gender.
Gender discrimination nationality laws are the leading reason for statelessness worldwide and have negative impacts on family unity and stateless children. Currently, 9 out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals set to end poverty, protect the plant, and ensure prosperity for all are impacted by gender discrimination laws, which directly affects these countries in other aspects like GDP. However, some reform efforts have been successful. This past December, Madagascar passed new nationality laws that would allow mothers to equally confer citizenship rights to children.
Our second panelist, Deepti Gurung, gave a powerful testimony as a mother of two stateless daughters and the wife of a stateless man, who was unable to secure his nationality documents after his Nepalese father died. Deepti spoke about her personal experience dealing with gender nationality discrimination in Nepal since she was unable to transfer her citizenship to her children. Both of her children have been denied educational opportunities because of their lack of citizenship. Her husband, a teacher, has been stateless since he was young and cannot benefit from government pension programs despite working in Nepal his entire life. One of the reasons the Nepali government uses to justify these laws are cross-border marriages, where men will come into Nepal from bordering countries and put Nepali nationalism at stake. But Deepti attributes the gender discrimination in nationality laws to the patriarchal mindset in Nepal, where women and children are only given an identity through a male bloodline.
To learn more about Deepti’s experience, you can read her article published in the Nepal Times here:
To read Catherine’s collaborative op-ed with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion on Nepal’s gender discrimination nationality laws, access it in our resource library here:
During the webinar, participants had the opportunity to ask questions to our panelists. Summary of full Q&A below:
You touch on the media. As a journalist I would be curious to know what the most undercovered issue(s) are a part of this?
Catherine: It depends on the country. One area of the issue that needs to be more emphasized is the economic implication for these countries and the hindrance it causes citizens to contribute to their country’s growth. The SDGs that are impacted through gender nationality discrimination make country leaders more aware of the impact.
What are some of the reasons given by those who oppose reforming the nationality law so that it upholds gender equality?
Catherine: Almost every country says there is a “unique” reason for why the laws cannot change, but these arguments tend to be universal. They cite economic concerns for developing countries, for example that resources are scarce or that they do not want to expand their resources. Some emulate the arguments used behind the international immigration debate, but these countries actually benefit from the inclusion women in their citizenship rights laws.
Deepti: There are always different excuses given like security issues or threats to nationalism.
International organizations working for statelessness have both, long term and short term goals. But shouldn’t they focus more on short term goals, providing immediate relief to affected persons, before focusing on long term goals?
Catherine: Again, it depends on the country and how realistic chances are for reform. Organizations need to be constantly reminding governments that they have a responsibility to uphold their economic standings, which are impacted by gender nationality discrimination. Temporary measures are often not implemented to the degree necessary to enact real change, so the best scenario would be to reform the law, then a temporary measure.
If you have additional questions for Catherine or Deepti, feel free to ask them here (type an @ symbol before their name) or using their contact information below:
Deepti Gurung Nepalese activist @Deepti
Don’t forget to check out Part II and III of our SDG Webinar series! Links to their descriptions and recordings below:
Part III: Advocacy, Justice, and the SDGs