Unequal Citizens: State Resistance to Women's Nationality Law Reform

Lilian Frost, George Washington University

Why do states resist removing discrimination toward women (DTW) from their nationality laws? Jordan is often considered a regional leader in adopting reforms promoting women’s rights, including legislation on violence against women and gender quotas in parliament. However, Jordan—unlike Afghanistan and Algeria—remains one of 47 states that do not allow women to pass their citizenship to their spouses or children on an equal basis with men (UNHCR 2017). Traditional explanations do not explain why states would adopt progressive measures in some areas, like gender quotas, but not others, like nationality laws. I adapt conceptualizations of “securitization” to make sense of this resistance to reform (Buzan et al. 1998). Specifically, state officials securitize this reform as a societal threat to the identity of the nation because if women can pass on their citizenship, then too many foreigners can gain access to entering the nation and thereby change its identity. I engage process tracing to examine the connections between securitization, the presence of protracted refugees, and failed nationality law reform efforts by leveraging Jordan’s failed citizenship law reform in 2014 as a deviant case study. This case study draws from 170 interviews I conducted with ministers, former ministers, members of parliament, lawyers, activists, and refugees in Jordan from 2016–17. The Jordanian case highlights the presence of protracted refugees as an overlooked factor in state decisions to block nationality law reforms.



About the speaker

Lillian Frost started as a Junior Visiting Fellow at MACIMIDE on February 19. She is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at George Washington University (GWU), with primary research interests in forced migration, citizenship, and Middle East politics. Her dissertation project aims to explain variations in the sets of rights and forms of citizenship statuses host states offer to different protracted refugee groups over time, including shifts in formal laws as well as their informal enforcement. Her research has received support from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and GWU Institute for Middle East Studies.



Venue: 0.16/0.17

Date: 25 April 2018

Time: 12:00 - 13:00


UNU-MERIT