What is a Stateless Citizen?

Miss Yuvethra Selvanaiyagam’s stateless status made headlines this weekend.

The 32 year old restaurant manager was born in Singapore, raised in Singapore, attended school just like most of us other citizens here in Singapore, has a Singaporean father but yet she remains in limbo in her own country.


To add to her plight, there were quite a number of netizens who jumped to the conclusion that it was either of her own doing or her parents’ doing that she hasn’t acquired a Singaporean citizenship. Those were just a few of the ignoramus we share the island with, there were many who were surprised at her predicament and many who voiced their concerns towards ICA.

How does being stateless affect your life, some will ask.

A stateless person is someone who is “not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law” according to Wikipedia. Sateless people will find harder to gain employment in certain areas, apply for residences, they’ll also find it impossible to cross any international borders without a passport. Which means Miss Yuvethra Selvanaiyagam has most likely never ever left Singapore soil, making this truly her only home.


Also according to Wikipedia, nationality is usually acquired through one of two modes. Jus Soli (right of the soil) meaning a regime by which nationality is acquired through birth on the territory of the state, and Jus Sanguinis (right of blood) a regime by which nationality is acquired through descent, usually from a parent who is a national.

Even if both were to be applied at the same time, Miss Yuvethra Selvanaiyagam should attain Singaporean citizenship with ease.

However there are nations who will not confer a person citizenship based on gender bias. These nations include our neighbours Malaysia, Brunei, Switzerland and quite a number of Middle East countries. Singapore doesn’t make that list.

In 2013 an article was published in Today that claimed that 90% of stateless applicants had received citizenship. That’s 9 out of every 10. So perhaps some of the netizens that had jumped the gun may have been right that it might be an issue of the person instead of the state.

Whatever the reasons for her status I’m glad that her issue has been brought to light and discussed in forums, on social media and even at CNY gatherings.

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