Kuwait: Gender Discrimination Creates Statelessness and Endangers Families

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Refugees International
Western Asia

Gender discrimination in Kuwait's nationality laws increases the incidence of statelessness by rendering children of Kuwaiti women and bidoun men stateless. Statelessness exposes women to heightened risks of abuse and exploitation. It also endangers family life. Some women are forced to divorce to try to pass nationality to their children, some are forced into marriages to try to acquire nationality, and others never marry in order to avoid statelessness for future generations.

The creation of the “Bidoun Committee” to process citizenship claims and reduce the incidence of statelessness and the provision of the 11 “facilities” (social benefits for registered stateless persons) are welcome steps. However, to date, no citizenship cases have been adjudicated and the facilities have been poorly implemented.
Policy Recommendations

The U.S. Government and the European Union should press the Government of Kuwait:
to amend its nationality law to ensure no child is born stateless in Kuwait by permitting women and men to transmit nationality on an equal basis.
to allow individuals listed on the “security block” who have been denied naturalization or official documentation to be informed of the reasons for the block, and to allow these individuals to contest their listing before a judicial body.

UNHCR should conduct outreach to the stateless population, register complaints from stateless people about their treatment, fund a study on the specific protection needs of bidoun women, and take up individual cases of stateless people in need of protection.
The Kuwaiti National Assembly should codify and vigilantly oversee the implementation of the 11 “facilities” that have been granted to the bidoun by decree, including access to civil documentation, education, and health.

Melanie Teff and Marc Hanson, Senior Advocates, assessed the situation of the bidoun community in Kuwait in September 2011. Information in this report is based on interviews with members of the bidoun community, Kuwaiti women married to bidoun men, Kuwaiti government officials, UN agencies, local and international NGOs, and academics.

Read the full report at www.refugeesinternational.org.