27 July 2018

Gender Equality an Integral Component of Achieving 2030 Development Agenda

UN Women, UNHCR, UNICEF, the Permanent Mission of Tunisia and the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights co-hosted a side event during the 2018 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on advancing gender equality at the national level.  

Around the world women and children continue to face discriminatory laws that prevent them from accessing employment, opening a bank account, traveling, or owning or inheriting property. Over 50 countries have legal restrictions in place that bar women from holding nationality or conferring their nationality onto their children on an equal basis with men. Consequently, children can be denied birth and marriage certificates, as well as driver licenses and other official documentation. These children are then denied access to protection, due process in court, healthcare, formal employment, or the freedom of movement.  Discriminatory nationality laws also often lead to women being trapped in abusive marriages simply because they understand the only way for their children to hold nationality is through their husband.

During the side event, participants were shown real life examples of how these laws disenfranchise and discriminate against women and children.  Take the case of Rama, a young girl who was born to a woman who hold legal nationality, but whose father is stateless.  In her country, only men can pass their nationality onto their children and because Rama’s mother is legally barred from conferring her nationality on her daughter, Rama does not have citizenship in the country in which she was born and where her mother is a citizen. Rama is one of the lucky few that get to attend school even without official documentation, but without citizenship she cannot attend university or sit in for official exams, dashing her dreams of becoming a pediatrician and caring for sick children.

Unfortunately, Rama’s country is no exception in the Middle East and North Africa. Gender discriminatory nationality laws are most prevalent in MENA, but considerable development has been made in the region. Tunisia has put in place laws that allow non-Tunisian women to be given immediate citizenship upon marrying a Tunisian citizen, granted their home country revokes their citizenship for marrying outside of their country, or simply does not recognize them as citizens. The spouses of Tunisian women can also immediately be granted citizenship if they are from outside of the country.

The government of Tunisia helped organize the Ministerial Conference on Belonging and Identity, along with the Arab League and UNHCR, which resulted in the revolutionary Arab Declaration on Belonging and Identity. The declaration urges Arab League Member States to take meaningful action to eradicate gender discriminatory nationality laws in their respective countries and build on gender reforms.

Ending discriminatory nationality practices is integral to achieving SDG 5.1: End all forms of discrimination against women and girls, SDG 10.3: ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, and SDG 16.9: by 2030 provide legal identity for all. Furthermore, the abolition of these discriminatory laws will contribute to the achievement of SDGs1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 11.

There are other signs of progress; in the last 15 years fourteen countries have abolished their discriminatory nationality laws, and the historic declaration by the Arab League is a positive development that will impact millions of people, but there remains much work to be done.

More information on the event can be found here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/7/announcer-hlpf-gender-discriminatory-nationality-laws