A global survey published by UNHCR in March 2012 identified over 25 countries in which severe pockets of gender discrimination remain in the nationality law. The emergence of new cases of statelessness thanks to these laws is a real and pressing concern. To explore this problem in greater detail, the Statelessness Programme convened a roundtable debate on the question “how gendered is citizenship?” on 19 April 2012. The objective was to shed further light on the unequal nationality rights of men and women, with a particular focus on the link between such forms of discrimination and the problem of statelessness.
The invited experts were: Prof. Cees Flinterman (CEDAW / UN Human Rights Committee), Ms. Radha Govil (UNHCR) and Prof. René de Groot (comparative nationality law expert). Under the guidance of Sebastian Köhn of the Open Society Justice Initiative, they discussed the historic origins of the unequal nationality rights of men and women, before turning to look at the factors that have contributed to the wave of legal reform that has been achieved across the globe over the past few decades. They also provided a more detailed commentary on the link between gender discrimination and statelessness, the role of various UN bodies in helping states to address these issues and areas in which further research and action is needed.
A full video of this rich debate has been made available online and can be viewed here. Although the film is rather lengthy, we hope that it will be a helpful teaching resource. Some discussion questions to help guide the viewer or to address in class following a presentation of the video are provided below.
What is the respective role of UNHCR and the UN human rights system in promoting gender equality in the enjoyment of nationality rights?
What are the different forms of gender discrimination that can be found in the context of citizenship policy?
How can gender discrimination in nationality law lead to new cases of statelessness?
What are the historic origins of gender inequality in nationality law?
Is it always women who are disadvantaged when it comes to nationality rights?
What does human rights law say about the nationality rights of men and women?
Which countries have recently granted women equal nationality rights with men and how has this taken shape?