A second-class citizen is a person who is systematically and actively discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction, despite their nominal status as a citizen or a legal resident there. While not necessarily slaves, outlaws, illegal immigrants, or criminals, second-class citizens have significantly limited legal rights, civil rights and socioeconomic opportunities, and are often subject to mistreatment and exploitation at the hands of their putative superiors. Systems with de facto second-class citizenry are widely regarded as violating human rights.[1][2]

Typical conditions facing second-class citizens include but are not limited to:

The category is normally unofficial and mostly academic, and the term itself is generally used as a pejorative by commentators.

Governments will typically deny the existence of a second class within its polity, and as an informal category, second-class citizenship is not objectively measured, but cases such as the Southern United States under racial segregation and Jim Crow laws, the repression of Aboriginal citizens in Australia prior to 1967, deported ethnic groups designated as "special settlers" in the Soviet Union, the apartheid regime in South Africa, women in Saudi Arabia under Saudi Sharia law, and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland during the Parliamentary era are all examples of groups that have been historically described as having second-class citizenry and being victims of state-sponsored discrimination.

Historically, before the mid-20th century, this policy was applied by several European colonial empires on colonial residents of overseas possessions.

A resident alien or foreign national, and children in general, fit most definitions of a second-class citizen. This does not mean that they do not have any legal protections, nor do they lack acceptance by the local population, but they lack many of the civil rights commonly given to the dominant social group.[1] A naturalized citizen, on the other hand essentially carries the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen, except for possible exclusion from certain public offices, and is also legally protected.

Relationship with citizenry class

Citizenry class Freedoms Limitations Legal status
Full and equal citizenship Freedom to reside and work, freedom to enter and leave the country, freedom to vote, freedom to stand for public office No limitations

Internationally recognized

Second-class citizenry Restrictions on freedom of language, religion, education, and property ownership, and other material or social needs. Largely limited

Internationally recognized

Non-citizens Rights are neither given nor withdrawn from the individual. Non-Assessable

Internationally recognized

Outlaws, criminals No rights to outlaws, or criminals in normal citizenry classes, however, certain countries have constitutional sets and legal standards for criminals and outlaws Completely limited

Widely unrecognized


See also


  1. ^ a b "the definition of second-class citizen". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2017-05-11.
  2. ^ "Definition of second-class citizen". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2017-05-11.
  3. ^ "Walk like a Latvian". New Europe. 2013-06-01. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  4. ^ Third report on Latvia. CRI(2008)2 Archived 2009-05-09 at the Wayback Machine Executive summary
  5. ^ Chew, Amy. "Malaysia's dangerous racial and religious trajectory". Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  6. ^ Roth, Louis Frédéric ; translated by Käthe (2005). Japan encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap. pp. 93–94. ISBN 9780674017535.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Saito (齋藤)), Naoko(直子) (29 September 2014). "部落出身者と結婚差別".
  8. ^ Regina Ip (2008). 四個葬禮及一個婚禮 - 葉劉淑儀回憶錄. 明報出版社. ISBN 9789628993628. Archived from the original on 2019-11-29. Retrieved 2018-03-20.