‘Citizenship bill discriminates against women’

Kathmandu, August 14

Lawmakers of federal parliament, mostly women, today sought revision to the Nepal Citizenship (First Amendment) Bill stating the proposed law has discriminated people who want to obtain citizenship based on their mother’s nationality.

These views were shared as discussion on the bill tabled earlier in the lower house by Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa kicked off today. Lawmakers can recommend amendments that need to be made to the bill within 72 hours beginning tomorrow.

Most of the lawmakers who spoke at the Parliament today were of the view that the bill has not treated men and women equally in terms of granting citizenship to their offsprings.

Article 18 of the constitution clearly says, “All citizens shall be equal before law; and no person shall be denied equal protection of law.” Article 38 of the constitution further says, “Every woman shall have equal lineage right without gender based discrimination.”

“Despite these constitutional provisions, the bill says an applicant who wants to seek citizenship on the basis of mother’s nationality will have to submit an affidavit stating s/he does not know who her/his father is. The other option is for the mother to submit an affidavit saying she does not know the identity of her child’s father,” said lawmaker Parvati Kumari Bisungkhe, questioning, “Why do we need to make these clarifications?”

These provisions that compel women to explain their position are against the spirit of Article 28 of the constitution, as per lawmaker Puspa Bhusal. The article on right to privacy states, “The privacy of any person, his or her residence, property, document, data, correspondence and matters relating to his or her character shall, except in accordance with law, be inviolable.”

“The ultimate focus should be to provide citizenship to genuine Nepali citizens in a hassle-free manner. But the country seems more interested in finding out whether the guardian of the person who is seeking citizenship is a male or a female,” said lawmaker Binda Pandey. This form of discrimination, as per Pandey, will deprive people of citizenship. The ongoing debate on issues related to granting citizenship speaks volumes about “Nepalis’ perception towards women,” said lawmaker Gagan Kumar Thapa. “We talk about independence and nationalism, but what about women’s rights?” he questioned. “We should not hesitate to make amendments to the bill, and the constitution if necessary, to uphold women’s rights.”

Lawmakers such as Rekha Sharma and Sarala Kumari Yadav said those who want to rely on mother’s nationality to become a citizen of Nepal by descent are likely to face complications because of contradictory constitutional provisions.