stateless women



A stateless woman is a woman who, under national laws, does not have a legal bond of nationality with any state. Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons indicates that a person not automatically considered a national (or citizen) under the laws of any state is stateless. However, in addition to this legal status (de jure statelessness), many women are de facto stateless because their citizenship is practically useless or because they cannot prove or verify their nationality.

De facto statelessness is a particular issue for women, such as trafficked women who may have had their documents confiscated or stolen, or undocumented migrant women, including asylum-seekers, who may also be unable to prove their nationality and may be effectively stateless. Citizenship laws may also directly or indirectly discriminate against women and expose them to a greater extent than men to the risk of being rendered stateless. Statelessness may arise, for example, from denial of a woman’s ability to pass on nationality, from loss of nationality due to her marriage to an alien, from the change of nationality of a spouse during marriage, or from deprivation of nationality resulting from discriminatory practices.

Birth registration is also closely linked to the enjoyment by women and their children of the right to a nationality. In practice, indirect discrimination, cultural practices and poverty often make it impossible for mothers, especially unmarried mothers, to register their children on an equal basis as fathers. Failure to register a child’s birth may impair or nullify the child’s effective enjoyment of a range of rights, including the right to nationality, to a name and identity, to equality before the law and to recognition of legal capacity as well as to problems in gaining access to diplomatic protection, and prolonged detention pending determination of proof of identity and nationality.


(1) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR (2006). Master Glossary of Terms Rev.1. Available at:

[accessed 15 May 2015]; (2) UNHCR (2009). Displacement, Statelessness and Questions of Gender Equality under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Available at: (3) CEDAW Committee (2014). General Recommendation No 32 on the gender related dimensions of refugee status, asylum, nationality and statelessness of women. Available at:

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