Nepali Times Asian Paints
My Take
Medieval mindsets


Has the high-level task force of the seven political parties, formed to settle disputes on the new constitution, erred in its decision of 4 November on citizenship?

I would like to believe that it was an uninformed error. For if it was deliberate, then none of the seven individuals on the high-profile panel deserve to hold public posts of any kind.

The panel has six communists (ok, one of them is an ex-communist) who fiercely project themselves as 'progressive'; the seventh member belongs to a centrist party. The panel had the opportunity to right the existing wrong in our laws, which do not treat a Nepali woman as equal to her male counterpart. But all it ended up doing was reinforcing age-old male chauvinist beliefs on treating women as inferior (and less nationalist).

Worse, they have even overturned far more progressive provisions in the Citizenship Act of 2006 and the Interim Constitution of 2007.

Take a closer look. The Citizenship Act says, "Any person born at the time of when his father or mother is a citizen of Nepal, shall be a citizen of Nepal by descent"(emphasis mine). Ditto the Interim Constitution, which says that a person is deemed to be a citizen of Nepal by descent "whose father or mother was a citizen of Nepal at his or her birth"(emphasis mine).

Now compare this with what the task force came up with on 4 November. To acquire citizenship by descent, "both (a person's) father and mother have to be citizens of Nepal" (emphasis mine).

The nonsense doesn't end here. In an attempt, ostensibly, to provide naturalised citizenship to foreigners marrying Nepalis, the task force has given continuity to what is clearly discrimination against Nepali women.

A foreign man marrying a Nepali national has to stay in Nepal for at least 15 years on a regular basis if he wants Nepali citizenship, the panel proposed. However, a foreign woman marrying a Nepali citizen can acquire Nepali citizenship as soon as she produces evidence that she has started the process of relinquishing her existing citizenship.

Love for foreign women? Doubtful. Based on the notion that a Nepali woman is inferior? Certainly.

"This has challenged a woman's right to marriage, to marry the person of her choice, her right to family, her right to choose her place of residence, and more importantly, the rights of her children and their right to choose citizenship," says Sapana Pradhan Malla, a Constituent Assembly member and women's rights activist.

The reintroduction of the discarded discriminatory provisions for Nepali women will have a direct bearing on her children, who will be deemed naturalised citizens as opposed to being citizens by descent.

Should this differentiation matter? Yes, because of another decision on the subject by the task force.

Naturalised citizens will not be entitled to occupy certain top posts in the federal or provincial governments. The head of state, deputy head of state, prime minister, chiefs of the federal legislature (speaker) and judiciary (chief justice), chiefs of security agencies, and governors and deputy governors must be citizens by descent.

There's still more. The task force has differentiated between Nepalis living in foreign lands as well.

Non-resident Nepalis who have acquired foreign citizenship after relinquishing their Nepali nationality can get citizenship provided they live outside South Asia. What is the problem with non-resident Nepalis with foreign citizenship in South Asia? Less affluent and wealthy? Lacking clout? Narrow meaning of 'non-resident Nepali'? The task force hasn't given any reasons.

It will be a real shame if these provisions are allowed to be incorporated into the new constitution. The task force has squandered an excellent opportunity. But what about the rest of us?

I wonder what the Caucus of Women MPs, women's rights organisations, and civil society will be doing about this.

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Whose festival is it anyway?, ARTHA BEED
No Prime Minister, RANJAN ADIGA
A return to reason, BJORN LOMBORG

1. Sargam
This article shows explicitly how mean and vile any so-called human beings could degrade. All this is happening in Nepal under the chairmanship of Prachanda, the awesome! And Nepalese are ready to make him the future PM of Nepal!!

This bugger shouts out by telling himself progressive. That means he doesn't know the real meaning of being progressive in politics. And a commie takes him to be a nationalist? He forgot his 'Das Kapital' in the loo of Beijing or what? One becomes commie to flee away from nationalism. So why their song about International Communism and the unity of all proletariats.

Anyway, commies of Nepal are determined to drown Nepal into the ocean of backwardness. I feel sorry to be of that part of the world where people of such mindset live.

What a shame. I've no more desire to prepare a potshot, for, there is everything to demoralize even a man of conviction that I used to be.

2. Arthur
I'm not familiar enough with the issues concerning NRN citizenship to comment on that.

But if the report of proposals to retreat from current provisions on women's citizenship is correct then I also hope it was "an uninformed error".

I am surprised to agree with the author as I have been very unimpressed with his previous articles. But if this was some sort of compromise to reach "consensus" it looks like a very bad one.

3. Ram B. Chhetri

A great article outling the shortcomings of the Task Force and the attudinal deficiency.The author at his best,as usual.Thank you.

Ram B. Chhetri


4. Nirmal

At this hour of day to day politics, Damakant should have realized that there are certain issues in different times when the whole political class(this does not mean only politicos but many newspaper wallahs and so called intellectuals are also included unfortunately)turn into rightists number one. Let me explain some melting-points of the entire right in Nepal.

1. Long live nepali semen! This explain why the treatment of nepali women on their citizenship rights is extremely poor. Obviously, this is all about general culture where the rightists have their influence heavily. No matter a politico or a person or an entity is tagged leftist politically, going against "this culture" is like to take the black off a crow. However, thanks to catchy culture of Prajatantra or loktantra, our men and women have assumed a fantastic kamchalau culture:never say never on this issue! Recent consensus on depriving fundamental civil rights of NRNs (those possesing two citizenship) is also in accordance of long live nepali semen, If not why money should matters but not NRNs basic fundamental rights as a citizen of Nepal? I repeat it's like to take the black off a crow, in the presence of the omnipotent right in national policies.

2.No to disintegration! It seems that everyone would agree to shoot a self-declared separatist If found any immediately; it could be from limbuwaan, khumbuwaan or Madhesbadis. This uniform rightist tendency while reacting is palpable. Even the maoists , the hero with demand to self-determination, would agree to put the price on the heads of the separatists. I also say, use force(by the state) If they are armed because it is against Democracy. But If they are unarmed(civilian) and abide by the rules of the game facilitated, let them enjoy the political freedom, the basic essence of pluralism. It is not because we've been fighting for democracy for more than 70 years(under the veil of social democracy) or still we are not sure how to define properly the very terminology political freedom that we force them to go to the other side of the shore, IT IS because when it is the matter of the right to one's own identity and right to association Damakant, the crow is finally matched, I mean we all are turned into RIGHTISTS.

3. Sex is Porn and Porn is injurious to public health! Here, we all are rightist amazingly, out of our vocation to individual freedom and freedom of information. I think it will be better understood If I put a link of Indu's last week column Let's talk about porn. she asked the mainstream media to be more reflexive and has demanded a thorough study before reacting ignorantly. Positive write up but the problem is the RIGHTIST people in the media, If it's like spending time to differentiate the crow from a raven.

and etc etc!

Thank God!
I don't have any habit to lump together because there are people like Damakant and publication like Nepali Times, time to time, reminding us how we are. If it has been for some newspapers and inefficient rightists I would have already started taking my country as another SINGAPORE or SWITZERLAND. It would be completely a schizofrenia of mine, just for having listened to them.

5. God forsaken country
It will be an honor to part away with Nepali citizen!!! If possible, I wish I could erase everything that is in me to do with the word Nepal.

6. Shristi

Mediaval mindsets indeed. Well this primarily attributes to the partilocal system,  we have in Nepal. I belive we are heading for NEW NEPAL. So what has changed in this new nepal? New set of rulers? Or lets say frequently changing new set of ministers, upper and lower house members?

It annoyed me when I read this as a part of social studies syllabus in high school almost a decade ago and it annoys me now. Providing reserved seats in parliament is not going to bring women upto standard of men when basic right to citizenship is disparate for women's husband or child.

Well, if they are afraid of immigration from neighboring countries or refugee issues, the answer is not discirmination against women. The answer is single identification issuance that traces a Nepali from birth to death. Well the arguement against single id solution might be it is expensive. I believe it will acutally cut down cost as it will omit multiple id issuances. In addition it will solve numerous other administrative issues.

On the contrary, if we think through it. What right the citizen of Nepal has which non-citizen does not have in Nepal? Are there any government issued benefits in Nepal? Do government school deny admission based on inability to provide citizenship proof? Do health offices deny services? Is citizenship verification done while seeking employment? Anyone from SAARC country can enter Nepal, live and work for unlimited time, can't they? The few things we are protecting is right to run for government offices, voting rights, civil service right, millitary service right and recently ammended property right. People might tell me to go back to those social studies book for additional rights Nepali Citizens have.  But the point I'm tyring to make here is instead of discriminating against women, new consititution of Nepal should have checks and balances that defends the citizens and their rights and have policies in place that will enforce those laws.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)