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CA snubs proposal for gender friendly citizenship provisions

- PRATICHYA DULAL, Kathmandu
Clauses say both parents have to be Nepali for their children to acquire citizenship by descent, experts say

Sep 15, 2015-The constitution draft has denied Nepali women the right to pass on citizenship to their children.

The Constituent Assembly (CA) on Monday rejected the amendment proposal registered to correct gender discriminatory provisions regarding citizenship.

Article 11.2 of the constitution draft says a person whose father ‘or’ mother is a Nepali at the time of his or her birth can become Nepali by descent. However, subsequent clauses 3 and 4 override the previous clause, which says both parents have to be Nepali for their children to acquire citizenship by descent, said legal experts.

The Interim Constitution 2007 had a provision that any person whose father or mother is a citizen of Nepal could get citizenship by descent.

Women rights activists, who had been staging 24-hour relay hunger strike for over two weeks demanding equal rights to pass on citizenship to their children, said that the constitution draft has rendered Nepali women as second class citizens.

“This decision has brought shame to Nepal in the international arena as it is against various international conventions the country has signed to ensure equal rights of woman,” said Renu Rajbhandari, president of Women Rehabilitation Centre. She said that the provision has rendered thousands of children stateless.

According to a report published by UNHCR in 2011, there are around 800,000 stateless people in Nepal.

The constitution draft does not accept the existence of single mothers. Children born to single mothers inside the country will be eligible to apply for citizenship through their mothers only if the whereabouts of their biological fathers are unknown.  Also, there is no provision for children of single mothers born outside the country.

“Women coming home after being sexually exploited and pregnant from foreign lands frequently come in the news. As per the provision mentioned in the constitution draft, children of such mothers will be stateless,” said Advocate Sapana Pradhan Malla.

Contrary to the statement in the constitution which says that there shall be no discrimination among citizens on the basis of marital status, gender discrimination prevails on naturalised citizenship as well. A foreign spouse of a Nepali man can obtain Nepali citizenship soon after the marriage. There is no such provision for foreign spouses of Nepali women.

Existing laws allow non-Nepali women married to Nepali men to become citizens soon after they start the process of renouncing their original nationalities. But the constitution does not specify how long a non-Nepali men married to Nepali women have to wait before they can apply for Nepali citizenship.

Article 11.7 further states that children of Nepali women married to non-Nepali men will not receive naturalised citizenship unless the husband becomes a Nepali citizen. No such provision exists for children of Nepali men married to non-Nepalis.

Published: 15-09-2015 08:41

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