Many countries, including Nepal, still have discriminatory nationality laws that deny women the same nationality rights as men, reveals a worldwide report by the international human rights organisation Equality Now.

"The Constitution of Nepal, unlike the previous Interim Constitution, recognises citizenship as the 'right' of a Nepali citizen. However, it is not enough to recognise the principle of equality and non-discrimination and fulfil international obligations that Nepal has made by ratifying various treaties.

To truly embrace gender equality, the law should be equally applicable to all citizens irrespective of their gender.

The law in Nepal only allows Nepali mothers to pass citizenship to children born in the country if the father is unknown, but the same restrictions are not applied to fathers.

This unequal legal provision discriminates against women and exacerbates other types of gender discrimination," said Dechen Lama of FWLD Antonia Kirkland, Equality Now's Global Lead on Legal Equality, says, "Governments have affirmed the fundamental right to sex equality in international treaties, declarations, and domestic constitutions.

Denying women equal nationality rights as men is a clear form of discrimination based on sex, and is a human rights violation that contravenes international law."

"All women and men should be equally able to pass citizenship onto their children wherever they are born and to their spouse whether they are married at home or abroad. This is irrespective of whether the parental relationship is heterosexual or same-sex, and whether a child is born in or out of marriage, or is or is not adopted."

"Equality Now is calling for all governments with sex discriminatory legal provisions on nationality to review, amend and harmonise their legislation by 2030 to ensure consistency between relevant laws and regulations, with all women and men treated equally and fairly."

Women are prohibited from passing their citizenship onto their children and foreign spouses, and face restrictions on changing or retaining their nationality after marriage.

Those affected are at higher risk of a range of human rights violations. Campaigners are calling on governments to dismantle sexist nationality laws and ensure full legal equality in citizenship.

Many countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan in South Asia still have nationality laws that discriminate against women by denying them the same nationality rights as men.

Women are prohibited from passing their citizenship on to their children or a foreign spouse, and face restrictions on changing or retaining their nationality, leaving those affected more vulnerable to a range of human rights violations.

The new report, The State We're In – Ending Sexism in Nationality Laws, released by the international women's rights organisation Equality Now, has called on governments to dismantle sexist nationality laws and ensure full legal equality in nationality and citizenship.

The Equality Now report includes the case study of a Nepali mother and her daughter, who in response to repeated denials of maternal transfer of citizenship, have now taken their case to the highest court in the land.

Research findings include how sex discriminatory nationality laws remain in 49 countries – accounting for 25 per cent of United Nations member states. Forty-six countries prevent women from passing nationality to their spouse on an equal basis with men. And nationality laws in 28 countries prevent women from passing nationality to their children on an equal basis with men.

Discriminatory nationality laws have an enormous impact on women and their families, often violating their rights to health, education, employment, and non-discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and religion.

The inability, largely of women, to pass on their nationality to their spouse or to their children can have grave consequences for both them and their families, including: statelessness, fear of deportation of children and spouse and family separation, additional vulnerability of girls to child, early and forced marriage, increased vulnerability of women to abusive marriages, difficulties for women in claiming child custody/access in the event of marriage break-up Lack of access to publicly-funded education for children, lack of access to publicly-funded medical services and national health insurance, lack of access to social benefits, inability to register personal property and inherit family property, limited freedom of movement, including to travel abroad, limited access to jobs, economic opportunities, and financial services, shame, trauma and anxiety are the results of unequal citizenship laws.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 8, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.