× 1. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
3. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
4. Regional human rights frameworks
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Further reading

1. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

 

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International law protects the equal rights of women and men to acquire, retain or change their nationality and to confer it on their children. However, 25 countries continue to deny women equal rights as men to confer nationality on their children, and over 50 deny women equal rights to acquire, retain or change their own nationality, or to confer it on their spouses. Such discriminatory nationality laws undermine the woman’s and the child’s right to acquire a nationality, and can leave them stateless. Visit the website of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights for more details on the issue.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1981 to address global issues of gender inequality and discrimination against women through a binding treaty that gave force to the provisions of the 1967 Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It currently has 189 state parties. Article 1 of CEDAW defines discrimination against women as "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."

In addition to the general protection against all forms of discrimination against women, Article 9 CEDAW specifies equal nationality rights for women to acquire, change or retain their nationality and to confer it on their children: paragraph one provides that “States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality...” and paragraph 2 that “States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.”

 

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is the body of independent experts monitoring state’s implementation of CEDAW. The Committee consists of 23 experts on women’s rights from around the world. Officers of the Committee consist of a chairperson, three vice-chairpersons and a rapporteur and the election of office-bearers occurs on a rotational basis every two years. States must submit a State Report on their progress towards implementation of the Convention to the Committee every four to five years. The Committee are tasked with reviewing these reports in their assessment, along with reports submitted in parallel by national or international NGOs and human rights institutions.

Since its establishment in 1982, The Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (the Committee) has made hundreds of recommendations in their Concluding Observations to states on how to fulfil their obligations under CEDAW. In recent years the Committee has continued to focus its attention on countries that maintain gender discrimination in their nationality laws.

Of the 25 States which deny women the right to pass nationality to their children, 22 are parties to CEDAW. All but two of these States (Barbados and Malaysia) received a recommendation addressing this subject in their most recent review. Some recommendations specify the provisions of national law that should be amended “(a) Amend its Code of Nationality to grant women equal rights with men regarding the retention of the Togolese nationality in case of divorce (art. 23.3) and the transmission of the Togolese nationality to their children (art. 1) or to their spouses of foreign nationality (art. 5)”  or even highlight the need to amend constitutional provisions which discriminate against women.  In addition to transmission of nationality to children and foreign spouses, discrimination in transmission of nationality to children born abroad is routinely raised “repeal discriminatory provisions from its Aliens and Nationality Act of 1973, in order to bring it in line with the Constitution and the Convention, to ensure that Liberian women who give birth to children abroad can transmit their nationality to children on an equal basis as Liberian men whose children are born abroad...”.  States with reservations to Article 9 of CEDAW are asked to withdraw these reservations, but the existence of such reservations is not seen as a reason to refrain from recommending that States remove gender discrimination from nationality laws “withdraw its reservation made upon accession to the Convention regarding article 9 (2), repeal Decree No. 15 of 1925 on Lebanese Nationality and adopt legislation to ensure women equal rights with men to pass on their nationality to their foreign spouses and children”.