The Population and Registration Management Section at the Ministry of Local development
has said the Birth, Death and Vital Events Registration Act 1976 needs to be amended as it fails to address issues of children born of single mothers and families headed by women. This is a serious but worthwhile pointer. The consequences of the said Act are far-reaching, because of which it continues to be a controversial subject ever since its enactment. The discord lies with the law’s silence on official registration of births or deaths in families headed
by females. This difficulty is even more pronounced in the citizenship front, as Article 9 of the constitution does not say anything on whether or not a Nepali citizenship certificate can be issued on the basis of mother’s identity alone, as opposed to the existing provision based on the father’s identity only. Women’s rights activists have long pointed out that this aspect of the law has to be modified as it metes out injustice to the Nepali womenfolk, particularly the single mothers. Discriminatory as it is, it is not for nothing the need for change of the statute has been vigorously advocated.
The debate over whether or not a mother should be recognised just like the father in various legal procedures has spanned decades but somehow the judiciary and the legislature end up arriving at no conclusion. All the while, so many children have been adversely affected by this discrimination. The unregistered children are unaccounted for in the national census even when their Nepali descent is obvious. Similarly, unregistered children cannot officially enrol in schools. This has often forced many to resort to circumlocutory legal approaches just to get registered or acquire citizenship certificates, often promoting backhanded dealing and promiscuity. It is not only discriminatory and insensitive to the women’s issues but also is an evidence of controversial justice system. For so long, this has implied that single mothers are meted preferential treatment, which is fundamentally against the tenets of any democracy worth the name. The simple logic that either parent has equal measure of responsibility in all aspects of raising a child should form the sole basis for equal rights to men and women vis-à-vis registration and citizenship.