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Sexism and Statelessness

Women in 24 countries around the world are denied the right to pass their nationality to their children and foreign spouses. The laws that enable such discrimination disenfranchise entire groups and transform even the simplest tasks into insurmountable obstacles.

EINDHOVEN – Neha is a young Nepali woman, born in Nepal to a Nepali mother. She grew up there and had dreams of becoming a doctor. But, despite being an extremely bright student and at the top of her class, Neha could not take the entrance exam for medical school. Her ambition went unfulfilled, because she was not recognized as a citizen of Nepal.

Nepal is one of the 24 countries that deny women the right to pass their nationality to their children. It is also one of almost 50 states where women do not enjoy the same rights as men to acquire, change, and retain their citizenship, or confer citizenship on their spouse.

The nationality laws of these countries are rooted in sex discrimination and patriarchal norms. The assumption is that national and family identity naturally flows from men and that women are second-class citizens. It is astounding that a quarter of the world’s countries still have such blatantly sexist laws on the books. No one questions a man’s decision to marry a foreigner and confer nationality on his spouse or children. But it is framed as a woman’s fault if she chooses to marry a foreigner, or if the father of her child is out of the picture.