Clinton action call on 'discriminatory' citizen laws

Clinton action call on 'discriminatory' citizen laws

GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
Clinton action call on discriminatory citizen laws

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton . Reuters photo

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out Wednesday against the citizenship laws of more than 30 countries she said were denying women the ability to work and leaving them vulnerable to trafficking.

Clinton highlighted the plight of "stateless" women unable to acquire citizenship and pass it on to their children due to discriminatory laws.

Some also strip women of their nationality if they marry a foreigner, she said in an address to the United Nations's refugee agency UNHCR in Geneva. "These laws perpetuate generations of stateless people who are often unable to work legally or travel freely," she said, without naming the countries where they are enforced. "They cannot vote, open a bank account, or own property. They often lack access to health care and other public services. "In this compromised state, women and children are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and arbitrary arrest and detention." Clinton spoke at the UNHCR ministerial meeting at the close of the Swiss stint of a European tour.

On Tuesday the chief diplomat used a speech at the UN to urge global equal rights for gay people and discussed the situation in Syria with several opponents of the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Clinton on Wednesday pledged to work at persuading governments to change laws so that all births are recorded and stateless people are given the chance to register as citizens.

"I encourage other member states to join this effort," she said.

The UNHCR is this year marking the 60th anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and 50 years since the Convention on the reduction of Statelessness.

Clinton paid tribute to the work of the agency whose staff and partners assist an estimated 34 million people in 125 countries.

The Secretary of State was headed for Brussels where she will attend a NATO meeting.