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Unity Dow: Gendering the Botswana Citizenship Act of 1984

Unity Dow


This is a reprint of the groundbreaking judgment by the Botswana Court of Appeal that ruled favorably on the issue of womens citizenship rights. Unity Dow demonstrated an impressive act of leadership in asking the Botswana judicial system to rule on the states violation of her right as a citizen, and its policy of discrimination against women who marry foreign nationals. She argued that I am desirous of being afforded the same protection of the law as a male Botswana citizen and in this regard I am desirous that my children be accorded with Botswana citizenship. As the Dow case made clear, there is no reason why that citizenship rights of men should be different or superior to that of women; and why as a citizen of the Republic of Botswana, the constitutional guarantee of immunity from expulsion from Botswana is limited and interfered with by sections of the Citizenship Act that contravened her right to pass on citizenship to her children.

There can be no justification for the discriminatory treatment meted to male foreign nationals who married Botswana women given that female foreign nationals who are married to Botswana men did not face such treatment. Other than gender discrimination, an act the violates the fundamental notion of equality embedded in the Botswanas constitution, there is no legal, moral, or rational basis to deny a mother to pass on her citizenship to her children. Her childrens right to her citizenship should not be violated simply because their father is a foreign national.

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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