Statelessness a Risk for Women in Many Countries

March 8, 2012 Updated: March 11, 2012

The United Nations refugee agency said that as the world marks International Women’s Day, the unequal treatment of women could create “statelessness in more than two dozen countries,” according to a press statement released on Thursday.

A survey from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office found that at least 25 countries do not allow women to pass on their nationality to their children.

“A child born stateless today faces a future of uncertainty and insecurity,” said Erika Feller, an assistant on refugee protection with UNHCR. “When there is discrimination in conferring nationality, we see children becoming stateless from the moment they are born.”

The UNHCR said most countries that do not allow women to confer their nationality to their kids are in the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. There are several countries in other regions with similar laws.

“Children become stateless in these countries because, in some instances, they can neither acquire the nationality of their mother nor of their father,” a statement from the agency reads. “This can happen, for example, if the father is himself stateless, or if laws fail to grant nationality to children born outside the country of their father.” It can also happen if a father dies or abandons the child, making documentation difficult.

Some states have amended their laws, allowing women to pass on their nationality, it added. These states include Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Monaco, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.