Kathmandu, August 28
The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives is divided on whether or not to end the provision granting naturalised citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali men immediately after marriage by introducing a waiting period of seven years in the bill.
Jurists say departure from the provision could restrict citizens’ fundamental right and adversely affect cultural relations between the people of Nepal and India.
Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna, also a senior advocate, said some people were citing the case of Indian citizenship Act to argue in favour of introducing a seven-year waiting period, but in India there was no provision of citizenship as such.
“Nepali women married to Indian citizens immediately get all the documents enabling them to enjoy their rights as bonafide citizens. However, in Nepal, without citizenship certificate, people can’t get driving licence, open bank accounts or apply for government jobs,” Karna said, adding that as per the Nepal-India Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Nepali nationals can easily buy property in India, but Indian citizens don’t have that right in Nepal. “If Indian women have to wait for seven years to get Nepali citizenship, who will want to marry Nepali men?” Karna said the argument advocating restriction was aimed at spoiling centuries old cultural relations.
Former Supreme Court justice Girish Chandra Lal said the case of foreign women marrying Nepali men should be treated differently as they sacrifice everything for their husbands’.
“No country can prohibit citizens from marrying foreigners because the right to marry a person of choice is a fundamental right,” Lal argued. He said even foreign men married to Nepali women should be entitled to Nepali citizenship if they live in Nepal with their spouses.
Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi said under the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a woman has the right to marry a person of her choice irrespective of nationality. The spirit of international law is that legal obstacles should not be created to discourage women from marrying persons of different nationality and culture,’ he argued. “Under international law, the right of family union is an important fundamental right and our lawmakers should keep this in mind when they debate the citizenship bill,” he added
Tripathi said the new citizenship bill should not incorporate burdensome provisions on citizenship. He said if gender equality had to be maintained, then foreign men marrying Nepali women should also get naturalised Nepali citizenship immediately as is the case with foreign women married to Nepali men.
It’s a long tradition in our law that foreign women married to Nepali men get naturalised Nepali citizenship immediately after marriage, but it’s not logical to argue that in order to strike gender balance, foreign women marrying Nepali men should also be made to wait for years to obtain Nepali citizenship. “It’s illogical to deprive foreign women marrying Nepali men from obtaining Nepali citizenship immediately,” he argued.
Advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh also said there were very few foreign men marrying Nepali women, but in the border areas it was common for men and women to have marital relations across the border.
Foreign women married to Nepali men leave their maternal house to become part of their husbands’ families and hence they should not be made to wait for years to obtain naturalised citizenship.
A version of this article appears in print on August 29, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.