On International Human Rights Day UN Agencies and Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights urge action to uphold gender-equal nationality rights across the Middle East-North Africa Region

According to UNICEF, citizens’ equal right to pass their nationality to their children is a fundamental human right, one that is essential to advancing gender equality, children’s rights and wellbeing, and sustainable development, and to preventing statelessness.

today 24 countries globally maintain nationality laws that limit or prevent women from conferring nationality on their children on an equal basis as men, with twelve of these twenty-four countries in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region.

As the world marks Human Rights Day 2022 and the final of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) join the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights in calling for urgent, much-needed reforms to uphold gender-equal nationality rights without delay in MENA and elsewhere.

While approximately half of the countries that limit women’s ability to pass nationality to their children are in MENA, the region has also seen notable progress. Since 2000, six countries – Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen – enacted reforms to advance women’s right to confer nationality on their children. These reforms yielded notable benefits for women, children, families, and societies as a whole – including by improving affected children’s overall well-being, protection and safety, and ensuring their access to education, healthcare, and other social services.

More steps and measures in that direction are still needed.

The Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights (GCENR), UNICEF and UNHCR recently drew attention to the many benefits of gender-equal nationality rights at a September 2022 convening of over sixty government officials, civil society representatives and other actors from 17 Arab states convened in Larnaca, Cyprus. Building on a series of past convenings, including those conducted in partnership with the League of Arab States*, the meeting promoted an exchange of lessons learned from past reform processes and the exploration of opportunities for advances in this area.

“Ensuring that women can pass along their nationality on an equal basis as men advance gender equality, enhances children’s wellbeing and can prevent statelessness. Countries in MENA have made significant progress, with six countries enacting reforms since 2000. However, more remains to be done to ensure that the benefits of such progress for individuals, families and societies can be experienced throughout the region.” – Ayman Gharaibeh, Bureau Director, UNHCR Regional Bureau for the Middle East & North Africa

“Gender-equal nationality laws are essential to women and men’s equal citizenship and their equality in the family. Eliminating gender discrimination in nationality laws is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do – with gender-equal nationality laws benefitting individuals, families, and societies as a whole.” – Catherine Harrington, Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights Manager

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