19 Child & Fam. L. Q 1 (2007)

handle is hein.journals/chilflq19 and id is 1 raw text is: 1

Unmarried fathers and British
citizenship: the Nationality,
Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
and British Nationality (Proof of
Paternity) Regulations 2006
Sally Sheldon*
This article considers the recent reform of the law to make it easier for
unmarried fathers to transmit British citizenship to their children. It is
suggested that this reform is interesting for the broader trends which it reflects:
a movement towards formal equality between mothers and fathers, and
between marital and non-marital children, and a related enhanced reliance on
the genetic link as a means of grounding legal fatherhood. While the reform
discussed here has received little critical attention, these broader shifts have
been anything but uncontroversial in other contexts
In recent years, changing understandings of childhood, the appropriate role of the
state in relation to the family, the significance of marriage, and men's and women's
responsibilities towards each other have all contributed to a complex renegotiation of
the rights and responsibilities of parenthood in general and fatherhood in particular.
While the legal and political struggles which accompany these changes have often
attracted a high level of interest,2 recently one of the few remaining distinctions of
significance in the legal treatment of married and unmarried fathers in the UK was
removed with no fanfare and precious little discussion in either the popular media or in
academic journals.3 On 1 July 2006, unmarried fathers gained the right to pass on UK
citizenship to children born after that date on the same lines that children's mothers
*Professor, Kent Law School.
I am grateful to the ESRC for funding the research fellowship that allowed me the time to explore the
issues raised in this note (RES 000-27-0111). My thanks also go to Bernard Ryan and to two referees
for CFLQ for extremely constructive and unusually detailed comments on a previous draft, to Toni
Johnson for her research assistance, and to the AHRC Centre for Law, Gender and Sexuality for
funding her work. This note was written in part during a visit to the Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at
UBC, where I benefited from the possibility to discuss ideas with Centre members. I am especially
indebted to Susan B Boyd and Claire Young for the warmth of their welcome on that occasion and their
ongoing support and intellectual inspiration.
For one attempt at an overview of some of these developments, see R. Collier and S. Sheldon,
'Fathers' Rights, Fatherhood and Law Reform - International Perspectives' in R. Collier and
S. Sheldon (eds), Fathers' Rights Activism and Law Reform in Comparative Context (Hart, 2006).
2 As detailed, for example, in the contributions to R. Collier and S. Sheldon (eds), Fathers' Rights
Activism and Law Reform in Comparative Context (Hart, 2006).
3 Although see H. Nugent, 'The Baby Born One Day Too Soon for a British Passport' reported in The
Times (12 July 2006), available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,200-2265644,00.html.

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