End gender discrimination in citizenship bill: NHRC

Kathmandu, August 23

Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Anup Raj Sharma said lawmakers needed to think about incorporating the recommendations made by United Nation’s CEDAW Committee to end gender discrimination in citizenship bill being considered by the Parliament.

Addressing an interaction organised by the NHRC here today on the recommendation by the CEDAW Committee, Sharma said no argument could justify discrimination between sons and daughters as far as passing nationality to children was concerned. He said those drafting the constitution should have taken CEDAW and other conventions that protected the rights of marginalised communities and groups into account while drafting the new constitution in 2015.

Sharma said eligible people trying to obtain their Nepali citizenship certificates were being victimised because of regressive mindset of bureaucrats. He said if the then Chief District Officer was not considerate, he would not be able to obtain duplicate copy of his citizenship certificate in 1960.

“When I went to obtain duplicate certificate, Kathmandu District Administration Office staff told me that they lost record of my citizenship certificate and I could get my copy only if I signed an affidavit saying I had not obtained my citizenship certificate before, but I refused to do so,” he said. Luckily, he knew the CDO who issued an order to grant him a duplicate copy of his citizenship.

Sharma said many problems relating to citizenship would be resolved if CDOs acted responsibly and sympathetically towards applicants. He added no people should be rendered stateless. “A section of people has created fear among public that foreigners would come to Nepal and obtain Nepali citizenship. But who will come to Nepal where all parameters of development are at initial stage? Four million Nepalis work in India.”

Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha said right to citizenship was a constitutional right and yet eligible citizens were not able to obtain their citizenship certificates.

Sharma said the new constitution clearly stipulated that laws contradicting with the constitution would be adjusted or repealed within a year, but the government has failed to bring a new citizenship law to honour the constitutional provision. He said the CEDAW Committee had expressed its deep concern on Nepal’s failure to ensure gender equality on issue of citizenship and had demanded the government to submit an early report on the matter.

“Is it fair to deprive eligible people of their citizenship certificates just because political parties do not forge consensus on the issue?” he questioned. State Affairs and the Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives awaits political consensus on the citizenship bill.

He said Nepal had accepted CEDAW members’ proposal to end all kinds of discrimination based on gender and to ensure that children would get citizenship on the basis of father or mother’s nationality and yet the government was not doing anything about those commitments.

Member of the NHRC Mohna Ansari said Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Child Rights Convention and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had ensured right to nationality and yet many eligible children had been deprived of Nepali citizenship.