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Source: Equality Now

February 2013.

Born and raised in Lebanon to a Lebanese mother, Nour was married off at age 15 to a relative of her father in Egypt. Her parents were scared that since she is not entitled to claim Lebanese citizenship through her mother, she would not be able to stay in Lebanon as an adult or have access to further education or work, leaving her vulnerable.

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to sign our petition calling for the repeal of discriminatory nationality laws.

Lebanon is not the only country where this is a problem. Above is a graph showing the number of countries where women cannot pass on their nationality either to their children, born at home or abroad, or to their spouses. Also illustrated is the small number of countries where unmarried men cannot pass their nationality to their children without fulfilling additional requirements, such as pledging to provide financially for the child.

Shireen is not allowed to register her Jordanian-born children on her Jordanian passport because their father is from another country. She has a troubled marriage and is terrified that her husband will take the children back to his country, leaving her with few and arduous options to get them back or have access to them. She, too, thinks of marrying off her daughter early in order to give her the sense of security that she herself lacks.

In these two examples, had Nour’s father rather than her mother been Lebanese and Shireen’s husband rather than Shireen been Jordanian, the children would have had an automatic right to citizenship and would not face consequences, such as child marriage, which can result from discriminatory nationality laws.

Over the last 13 years, Equality Now has been calling for the repeal of all sex discriminatory laws; however, despite repeated commitments by governments to do so, sex discrimination persists, including in citizenship and nationality laws. Nationality is an essential step in helping individuals access a fair and decent life and their equal rights – to education, healthcare, work, marriage choices and much more. Women and men should have equal rights to transfer to their nationality to their children and their spouse, but too often the laws governing citizenship are based on – and so reinforce – stereotypical roles for women and men. This not only denies equality to women and men, it also causes unnecessary suffering, vulnerability and harm to all affected by the discrimination.

Equality Now’s full report, Campaign to End Sex Discrimination in Nationality and Citizenship Laws, which has been sent to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, documents a wide range of harmful consequences and calls on governments to remove all discrimination against women in passing on their nationality to their husbands and children. It highlights those countries where women do not have the same rights as men to convey their nationality, engendering much hardship for the families concerned. It is available online at

Consequences arriving from the inability, largely of women, to pass on their nationality to their children or spouse or can be very grave, including:  


  • statelessness (lack of citizenship)  
  • fear of deportation of children and husband
  • additional vulnerability of girls to forced and early marriage
  • increased vulnerability of women in abusive marriages
  • difficulties for women in claiming child custody/access on marriage breakup
  • lack of access to publicly-funded education for the children
  • lack of access to publicly-funded medical services and national health insurance
  • lack of access to social benefits
  • inability to register personal property
  • limited freedom of movement, including to travel abroad
  • limited access to jobs and economic opportunities
  • trauma and anxiety


Nationality laws can be very complex, but removing any discrimination between men and women is straightforward and should be achieved through immediate legal reform.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to sign our petition calling for the repeal of discriminatory nationality laws.

  • Sign our online petition calling for immediate legal reform to remove discrimination between men and women in nationality and citizenship laws around the world.
  • Share the petition with your friends and colleagues and urge them to take part in the campaign.



Good laws that put women on an equal footing with men are necessary to protect and promote women's rights and facilitate their full social, economic and political participation. Legal equality gives women a level playing field from which to make their own choices, build their capabilities and realize their hopes and dreams, positively affecting the development of society in general.

We call on your government to amend, as a matter of urgency, the sex discriminatory provisions in your laws relating to nationality so that women and men may pass on their nationality to their children and/or their spouses on an equal basis and free from discrimination.

This petition calls on the governments of the following countries to amend all discriminatory provisions in their constitutions, laws, regulations and policies that prevent women and men from passing on their nationality to their children and their spouse on an equal basis: Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Benin, Brunei, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo (Republic of), Denmark, Egypt, Guatemala, Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vanuatu, Yemen.

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