The government brought a new ordinance to amend Nepal Citizenship Act to enable two categories of people - children of citizens by birth and children of Nepali mothers, whose fathers cannot be traced - to obtain Nepali citizenship certificates, but lawyers helping eligible citizens obtain their citizenship express doubt regarding implementation of the ordinance.

As per the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are a total of 190,726 individuals who have acquired Nepali citizenship by birth. It is estimated that through this ordinance, around 500,000 children of citizens by birth will be able to obtain citizenship of Nepal.

Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha said that on the basis of the number of single mothers documented in the last census, around 680,533 children of Nepali mothers will be eligible to get Nepali citizenship now.

Shrestha said at an interaction organised by his office here today that just like the constitution, the ordinance was discriminatory against women and did not recognise independent existence of Nepali women.

Although the government amended the Citizenship Rules on 31 May 2021, in line with the ordinance, the requirement of birth certificate in the case of children of citizens by birth and children of Nepali mothers, whose fathers have not been identified, could pose procedural challenges for eligible citizens, he argued.

Shrestha said local levels were not issuing birth registration certificates to people on the basis of mother's nationality.

He said the previous Citizenship Rules did not make it mandatory for applicants to submit birth registration certificates.

He said although the rules stipulated that the details of father not identified would be maintained in district administration office's record book only and not on the citizenship recipients' cards, the requirement of a recommendation letter from local levels certifying that the applicant's father has not been identified would be problematic as local levels did not want to issue such recommendations.

Engineer Indrajit Safi from Dhanusha told at the interaction that his father, mother, grandfather and grandmother were all Nepali citizens and yet he did not get Nepali citizenship. He went to Kurukshetra University to pursue engineering course in 2015 and cleared the exams in 2019 and yet he has not been able to get final certificate from his university and engineering licence due to lack of citizenship certificate. He said his brothers, who were stateless like him, were frustrated and indulged in bad habits.

"I got some engineering jobs, but soon I was removed from the job for failing to produce my citizenship certificate," he said. He said his family took a loan of Rs 500,000 to fund his education in India which accrued to 1,500,000.

"Precious times of my career have been wasted. I could have repaid the loan in the last two years, but I could not do so just because I did not have my citizenship card," he added.

Rupak Pahari from Lalitpur said he wanted to obtain his Nepali citizenship on the basis of his mother's nationality, but the administration refused to grant him citizenship.

Mohammed Kaif Faruqi from Dang, whose father is a Nepali citizen by birth and mother a naturalised citizen, has also not been able to obtain his Nepali citizenship.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.