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Nationality laws discriminate against women across the Middle East and North Africa, Reveals New Report by Equality Now

LEBANON, Beirut, July 07, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — A quarter of countries worldwide still have discriminatory nationality laws that deny women the same nationality rights as men, reveals a report by the international human rights organization Equality Now. Women are being prohibited from passing their citizenship onto their children and foreign spouses, and face restrictions on changing or retaining their nationality after marriage. Those affected are at higher risk of a range of human rights violations. Campaigners are calling on governments to dismantle sexist nationality laws and ensure full legal equality in citizenship.

The State We’re In: Ending Sexism in Nationality Laws highlights how sex discriminatory nationality laws remain in 49 countries – accounting for 25% of United Nations member states.

The Middle East and North Africa region has 17 countries that deny women equal nationality rights. These are: Bahrain; Egypt; Iran; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Morocco; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tunisia; United Arab Emirates; and Yemen.

Comparing different parts of the world, MENA has the highest ratio of countries with nationality laws that discriminate against women.

Globally, women are prevented from passing their nationality onto their children on an equal basis with men in 28 countries. While in 46 countries, women are barred from passing nationality to their spouses on an equal basis.

There has been some progress over the last decade. Significant declarations have been made by various governments and 19 countries have carried out partial or full legal reforms to achieve equality in nationality laws. However, many governments have failed to translate commitments and policy into action, causing suffering to millions.

Harm caused by sexist nationality laws can be grave. Individuals may encounter restrictions on their right to marry or be unable to obtain a birth certificate for their child, rendering their offspring stateless.

A woman can be trapped in an abusive marriage when her or her child’s citizenship is dependent on her spouse, and it can be difficult for a mother to claim child custody or gain access to her children if her marriage ends.

People without citizenship are commonly not entitled to publicly-funded medical services or schooling. Access to jobs, economic opportunities, and financial services is curtailed.

Curbs on freedom of movement and ineligibility for a passport makes traveling abroad difficult. Many are subjected to the trauma of forced separation, or live in fear of family members being deported.

Equality Now’s Antonia Kirkland says: “Denying women equal nationality rights to men is a clear form of discrimination based upon sex, and is a human rights violation that contravenes international law. All women and men should be equally able to pass citizenship onto their spouse, and children wherever born”.

“Equality Now is calling for all governments with sex discriminatory legal provisions on nationality to review, amend and harmonize legislation by 2030 to ensure consistency between relevant laws and regulations, with all women and men treated equally and fairly.”

Media inquiries: Tara Carey,, +447971556340  

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