Call for ‘mother or father’ provision

Kathmandu, July 2

Women leaders from across party lines and rights activists today made a pitch for ensuring a provision of citizenship by descent through ‘mother or father’ instead of ‘mother and father’ in the new constitution.

The ‘and’ provision in Article 12 of the draft constitution recently presented at the Constituent Assembly has sparked protest, with women leaders and rights activists calling the move ‘regressive’ and describing it as an insult to women.

Speaking at a programme in the capital today, Nepali Congress leader Sujata Koirala alleged that the draft constitution failed to recognise the role of women in the society.

“We demand that the constitution ensure that the mothers should be allowed to pass citizenship by descent to their children,” said Koirala. Stating that the provision of granting citizenship by descent through mother or father is practised in over 120 countries across the world, Koirala said she would continue to fight for this particular right ‘throughout my life’.

She also warned of serious consequences if the current ‘and’ provision was not changed. “People from all spheres should put pressure on the CA to correct this provision,” she said, adding that political parties must act to ensure equal rights to women and men. “If a woman is married to a Nepali man, she gets citizenship with political rights immediately after the marriage, but if a Nepali woman marries a foreign man, the husband is deprived of similar rights, which is unacceptable,” she added.

Constituent Assembly Vice-chair Onsari Gharti alleged that political parties had failed to grant complete rights to women. “This is just a preliminary draft of the constitution. Therefore, discussions must continue and pressure must be built before the final constitution is delivered,” she said.

Identity of a woman is linked with her children and there must be provision that ensures children get citizenship by descent through mother, she added.

Tham Maya Thapa, politburo member of CPN-UML, said women should stand united and fight for getting their rights ensured through the constitution. There is a need to formulate laws to ensure 33 per cent women representation in Kendriya Sabha, 40 per cent in Pradesh Sabha and 50 per cent in local bodies, she said. “Though the draft constitution denies women their right to transfer citizenship by descent to their children, but the provision can be changed and for that we must continue our struggle.”

Unified CPN-Maoist leader Hisila Yami claimed that the provision of citizenship by descent from ‘father and mother’ reflected that feudalism still reigned supreme in the country. “Identity of a woman begins from citizenship. So, we must not stay silent,” she added.

Rights activist Sapana Pradhan Malla alleged that the draft constitution had humiliated women by relegating them to the status of second class citizen.

She said that the draft constitution portrayed ‘women as beggars and men as givers’. Social activist and founder of Maiti Nepal Anuradha Koirala echoed Malla, saying, “Those involved in preparing the draft constitution have failed to give respect to their mothers.”

Article 12 says:

Citizenship by descent: (1) The following persons having permanent domicile in Nepal shall be deemed to be citizens of Nepal by descent:

(a) A person born at the time when his/her mother and father are citizens of Nepal,

(b) A person whose father or mother are, at the time of birth, are Nepali citizens and whose mother and father, at the time of acquiring citizenship, are citizens of Nepal