Gender Discriminatory Nationality Laws Addressed and Risk of Statelessness Reduced by Suriname

On 10 July 2014, Suriname’s National Assembly passed the Draft Law on Nationality and Residency (“the Law”), amending Law No. 4 of 24 November 1975 on Surinamese Nationality and Residence.

The Law, which comes into force on its publication in the official gazette, amends aspects of the 1975 Law which discriminated between men and women with regard to the ability to pass their Surinamese nationality onto their children and the acquisition and loss of nationality in the context of marriage and divorce. In so doing, the Law reverses decades of gender discrimination in nationality laws and reduces the risk of statelessness. Furthermore, it brings Surinamese law in line with international standards, in particular, article 9(1) and (2) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Under the 1975 Law (as last amended in 2002), whilst the child of a Surinamese man acquires Surinamese nationality regardless of their place of birth (article 3(a)), the child of a Surinamese woman only acquires Surinamese nationality if that child is (i) born out of wedlock (article 3(c)) or (ii) born in Suriname and would otherwise be stateless (article 4(b)). These provisions were in violation of article 9(2) CEDAW. The 1975 Law, in violation of article 9(1) CEDAW, also only enabled non-national women (not men) who marry a Surinamese man to become a Surinamese national (article 12) and differentiated between the treatment of men and women with respect to acquisition and loss of nationality in the context of marriage and divorce. Further, the 1975 Law contained a provision on the deprivation of nationality following service of a foreign state, which increased the risk of statelessness (article 11).

The Law removes these discriminatory distinctions and includes important protections against statelessness. Specifically:

  • A child is now granted Surinamese nationality automatically if their father or mother is Surinamese at the time of their birth (article 3(a) as amended) and the other conditions for a woman to confer her nationality to her child have been removed. The explanatory note to the Law states that this amendment “demonstrates the full equality of the man and woman (father and mother) before the law in the establishment of the nationality of the child at birth”.
  • All differentiations between men and women with respect to the acquisition and loss of nationality have been removed, including from article 12.
  • Surinamese nationality will not be lost where this would lead to statelessness (new article 11(a)).  
  • Article 3(c) of the Law retains the provision of the 1975 law which grants Surinamese nationality to any child born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless, and article 4(b) retains the provision which grants Surinamese nationality to foundlings or abandoned children found in the territory, whose parents are unknown.

ERT, a member of the Steering Committee for the International Campaign to End Gender Discrimination in Nationality Laws , commends Suriname for making this welcome and important change to its nationality laws, thus bringing them in line with articles 9(1) and (2) CEDAW. Not only does this show a commitment to gender equality before the law but it also demonstrates that the state is taking important action to reduce the risk of statelessness, both for children and others. In light of this positive development, ERT also urges Suriname to consider ratifying the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

To read a copy of the Law (in Dutch) click here

To read CEDAW click here