CEDAW Calls on States to Uphold the Rights to Equality and Non-Discrimination for Asylum-Seeking, Refugee and Stateless Women

On 5 November 2014, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women issued General Recommendation No. 32 on the gender-related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women. The Recommendation highlights the significant impact of gender discrimination on women and girls, recognising that it can create a cycle of statelessness and lead women to flee their own countries to seek asylum. 

More than 60 countries currently do not allow women equal rights with men to change, acquire or retain their nationality, and 27 countries have legislation that prevents women from passing on their nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. These laws are a blatant violation of the rights to equality and non-discrimination and, as stated by the Committee, “can lead to a cycle of statelessness that can be perpetuated from generation to generation.”

Recognising the importance of nationality and the increased risk of exploitation of women who are stateless, the Recommendation urges states to withdraw their reservations to Article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which provides that women should enjoy nationality rights on an equal basis with men. The Committee also recommends states amend their nationality laws to guarantee women the same nationality rights as men, and to ensure that women are not prevented from acquiring a nationality for themselves or their children by cultural practices, poverty or naturalisation requirements that amount to indirect discrimination.   

The Recommendation highlights the “compounding negative impact” of intersectional discrimination on women, noting that this must be recognised and prohibited by states. It reiterates that states have an obligation to protect women from discrimination by non-state actors and that gender-based claims to asylum must be recognised by states. It stresses that no woman should be returned to a country where she is at risk of suffering “serious forms of discrimination, including serious forms of gender-based persecution or gender-based violence.” For women who are forced to seek asylum, the Committee recommends that states put in place gender-sensitive safeguards, including ensuring women can bring an asylum claim in their own right. 

The Equal Rights Trust welcomes the General Recommendation and urges states to adopt the recommendations made by the Committee, including by repealing gender discriminatory nationality laws and removing hurdles to women acquiring nationality. The Trust also urges states to recognise gender-based claims for asylum and to implement procedural safeguards to ensure equality for women bringing asylum claims.   

To read General Recommendation No. 32 click here

To read more about the Trust’s most recent work on statelessness click here.

To read more about the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights, of which the Equal Rights Trust is a steering commitee member, click here.