Chair of Law, Justice, and Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives Krishna Bhakta Pokharel said that eligible citizens were not able to obtain their citizenship mainly because of the negative attitude of political leaders, government bureaucrats, and the judiciary.

Addressing a programme organised by Forum for Women and Development on problems of statelessness, Pokharel said that political leaders and judges were acting as if sovereignty of the country was vested in them.

"Citizenship ordinance brought by the KP Sharma Oli government was fully in consonance with the constitution and yet the Supreme Court stayed the ordinance," he said and added that bureaucrats should not refuse to register birth as that was just an event. "Anybody, who stays in Nepal can give birth to a child and the local levels must not refuse to issue birth registration certificate," he added. He said political leaders had unnecessary fear that if people were allowed to obtain citizenship on the basis of mother's nationality, nephews and nieces born to Nepali mother and foreign father would rule the roost.

Executive Director of FWLD Sabin Shrestha said that eligible citizens had to fight 16 to 17 court battles to obtain citizenship and in that long process, they stood to lose the opportunity to obtain higher education.

He said the government should sign UN conventions on Statelessness, 1954, and UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, 1961, to address the issues faced by stateless persons.

Shrestha said basic human rights of all people, including stateless people should be respected, but since Nepal had not signed the two UN Conventions adopted to address statelessness, many people who had not been able to obtain their citizenship were unable to enjoy even basic rights. "It is wrong on the part of government agencies to seek citizenship for providing COVID-19 vaccines," he added.

Shrestha said a district court refused to record the statement of a rape victim just because she did not carry her citizenship certificate.

He said laws stipulate that a person can obtain citizenship on the basis of mother's nationality, but local governments seek the identity documents of applicant's father. Member of the National Human Rights Commission Lily Thapa said despite being a signatory to CE- DAW, Nepal had not implemented 26 provisions of the convention.

She said hundreds of thousands of children, mostly children of single mothers, had not been able to get their birth registration and this had increased the risk of statelessness.

On Thursday, Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee passed a resolution urging the government to either ensure passage of the citizenship bill soon or make alternative arrangements to ensure that eligible citizens obtain their citizenship and enjoy their constitutional rights. Before the lawmakers' panel, Shrestha had presented the UN Universal Periodic Review suggestions related to citizenship.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.