Report on the illegal and unconstitutional discrimination in the Citizenship Act - May 18, 1999 - Emalus Campus

Report on the illegal and unconstitutional discrimination in the Citizenship Act - May 18, 1999


This report results from an investigation, commenced under the initiative of the Ombudsman into the discriminatory features of the Citizenship Act of Vanuatu.  The report sets forth a number of ways in which the Citizenship Act discriminates on the basis of gender.  These include:

·       A man applying for citizenship after 10 years’ residence can include his wife and children in his application.  A woman applying for citizenship after 10 years’ residence cannot include her husband and children in her application. (s.12)

·       A woman is entitled to citizenship if she is married to a ni-Vanuatu man.  A man is not entitled to citizenship on the basis of marriage to a ni-Vanuatu woman. (s.10)

·       In the case of joint adoption of a child, the child is automatically a citizen if his or her father is ni-Vanuatu, but not if his mother alone is ni-Vanuatu. (s.11)

·       A woman can regain her citizenship if she gave up her ni-Vanuatu citizenship because of marriage to a foreign national and the marriage later broke down; a man cannot. (s.18)

·       Ni-Vanuatu men can give their spouse and children entitlement to citizenship, but ni-Vanuatu women cannot.


In view of these features of the existing legislation, the report concludes that the Citizenship Act breaches article 5 of the Constitution which provides for equal treatment under the law.  Further the Citizenship Act, insofar as it discriminates against women breaches the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (Ratification) Act.

·       That the Citizenship Act be amended by Parliament as a matter of priority to remove discriminatory or unconstitutional aspects.


·       That until the Citizenship Act is amended, the Citizenship Commission acknowledge its discriminatory aspects and take no position in any application pursuant to section 6 of the Constitution by one alleging unequal treatment under the Citizenship Act.


Written by Edward R. Hill
UNDP Governance and Accountability Project
January, 2001
© Ombudsman of Vanuatu
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