In a landmark verdict to narrow down gender disparity, the Supreme Court, often than not perceived to be conservative and biased against females, upheld the women’s right to get passport without having to obtain anyone’s consent. The directive thus scrapped a decade-old cabinet decision, which had barred the government authorities from issuing passports to women under the age of 35 without the green signal from their parents/guardians. The court while terming the old provision “discriminatory” also directed the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministries of Home, Foreign Affairs and Women, Children and Social Welfare, and the Kathmandu District Administration Office to issue passports by ignoring the orthodox stricture. The decision is true to the spirit of Article 12 (2) of the 1990 Constitution that guarantees the fundamental freedoms of every citizen of the land. The ruling should, therefore, be hailed as a powerful step forward toward women’s emancipation.
The requirement as regards the guardians’ consent was not only unjust but also against international human rights conventions on civil and political rights. For instance, according to Article 13 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” So no government can restrict anybody from travelling to any corner of the world at his/her will. Moreover, if a woman can exercise her right to vote at an age of 18, there is no reason why she needs to seek anyone’s permission to get a passport. The law recognises that a person is mature enough to take on socio-political responsibilities once he/she crosses that age. Thus the aforesaid provision was illogical and unscientific right from the beginning, especially for those women subjected to torture by their in-laws and husbands who could easily blackmail them by riding on the back of this rule. In this context, the Court’s ruling is truly encouraging simply because of the fact that no society can progre-ss by sticking to outmoded norms and value systems.