What is Right to Nationality?

According to the United Nations, ‘right to nationality’ is a fundamental human right that “implies the right of each individual to acquire, change and retain a nationality.”

What flows from this is an obligation upon States to not arbitrarily deprive anyone of their right to nationality. International human rights laws establish that the right of States to decide who their nationals are is not absolute.

Any individual who is deprived of their right to nationality or denied a nationality becomes ‘stateless.’ Two specific international treaties prohibit States from rendering people stateless.

  1. 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons
  2. 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

The 1954 Convention defines “stateless person” as “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.”

India has not signed either of the conventions. This allows the Indian State to skirt responsibility from protecting individuals’ right to nationality and preventing statelessness. 

For more on the right to nationality and related issues, please visit our Resources section.