George Weah, the new president of Liberia, speaks during his swearing-in ceremony at a stadium in the capital of Monrovia on Jan. 22. (Courtesy of emansion.gov.lr)
**FILE** George Weah, president of Liberia (Courtesy of emansion.gov.lr)

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, praised Liberia for removing gender discrimination from its nationality law, granting women the same right as men to pass their nationality to their children.

With the stroke of a pen, Liberian President George Weah amended the country’s Aliens and Nationality Law on August 5, removing the primary cause of statelessness among children.

The U.N. refugee agency calls the act hugely significant. It says the amended law gives women the same rights as men to confer their nationality on their children. Heretofore, children were unable to access the rights of citizenship if the father was absent or unknown.

Under the new act, children will be able to benefit from their mother’s citizenship even if there is no man in the picture, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told VOA.

That, she said, will spare many children from becoming stateless and deprived of multiple rights.

“This has major implications from the cradle to the grave,” she said. “It really can exclude people from the rights and assistance and services that other citizens may have by limiting their access to education, health care, documentation, and also exposing them to risks of lifelong discrimination and exclusion, as well as violence, abuse, and trafficking.”

In 2014, the UNHCR estimated there were at least 10 million stateless people in the world when it began its #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness by 2024. Data from 94 countries collected in 2019 put that number at around 4.2 million, a figure the UNHCR considers to be grossly underestimated.

Mantoo said 24 countries in the world today continue to have gender discriminatory provisions in their nationality laws.

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