One third of our CA members are women and they come from across the socio-economic spectrum. We have had women serve as deputy prime minister, defense minister and speaker of the house. Young Nepali women made up one-third of the fighters in the Maoist army during the war, and women were at the forefront of the street protests that brought down the monarchy.¬
One would therefore expect Nepali women to enjoy greater civil and political rights, in paper at least. Alas, Nepal's citizenship provisions reek of outright discrimination and orthodoxy. A woman's citizenship is only a piece of laminated paper. It allows her to live, work, vote and spend money in this country, but doesn't allow her to pass those rights to her children.
A man goes to the district office, gets citizenship papers for his children within a few hours, no questions asked. No one even bothers him with the details of his marriage or intruding questions about the whereabouts of the mother. A woman goes to the same office, she doesn't just have to produce the father's citizenship but prove that she was, or is, married to the man. She has to put up with all sorts of insulting remarks, questions about her character, and still return empty handed.¬ The fact that she is a Nepali and her children were born in this land does not matter. What matters is that the father of her children has refused to acknowledge them, and so they don't deserve to be Nepalis.
Thousands of Nepali men and women whose fathers have abandoned their families, or do not cooperate with the mother, are rendered stateless. Without citizenship papers, they are not eligible to apply for jobs, hold property or get a passport to travel abroad.¬
Mass murderers and criminals will not have their Nepali citizenships revoked, but fatherless children have no place here. Even after a clear Supreme Court verdict in Sabina Damai's case that established a mother's right to transfer citizenship, CDO offices still demand a father's citizenship and a marriage certificate when a woman applies for citizenship for her offspring.¬
Meera Dhungana, the advocate who fought the landmark case told me: "They will defy the Supreme Court, but they won't change their mindset."¬ It gets even more difficult when a Nepali mother is married to a foreigner. Instead of resolving this issue, a high level task force has recommended that the new constitution have even stricter provisions for Nepali women marrying foreigners to get citizenship rights for their children.¬
A Nepali man's foreigner wife can get a Nepali citizenship as soon as she can prove she has relinquished her earlier citizenship. But a Nepali woman's foreigner husband has to stay in Nepal for 15 years before he can be considered for citizenship. Their children can be naturalised after that but will still not be eligible to contest top posts like head of the state, prime minister and chiefs of parliament, judiciary and security agencies.¬
These new provisions will directly infringe upon a woman's right to marriage and family, right to choose the place of residence and right of her children to choose their citizenship. What's worse is that these provisions were proposed by 'revolutionary' members of our Constituent Assembly who claim to be champions of gender equality.
Anyone arguing that all this is grossly unfair is usually met with a readymade answer from our uber-nationalist netas: we have to protect Nepal from being over-run by Indians marrying our women. It seems only women are capable of endangering this country's sovereignty even when it is mostly corrupt men who are involved in the forfeiting of citizenships and passports. Why should Nepali women have to pay the price for the dishonesty of a few men? Why should their children suffer? Go and seal the border if you are so insecure about Nepal's sovereignty.¬
Time for CA members, men and women, to stand up for the basic human right to citizenship for tens of thousands of present and future stateless Nepalis.¬
State of limbo, RUBEENA MAHATO Thousands of Nepalis are stateless because the state does not give citizenship in the mother's name
1. Concerned reader
Thank you Nepali Times for publicising this issue which threatens to tarnish the new constitution and will have a severe long term impact. The new citizenship provisions in the draft consitution are shameful. I can not understand why the regime feels it can defy international norms and human rights standards which have been developed over decades. Bhutan is presently the only country in the world that does not honour¬†the rights¬†of¬†children of mixed nationality parantage the right to citizenship by decent. Incidently, the country's draconian citizenship laws were the origin of¬† the present day¬†refugee crisis.¬† Most countries also offer citizenship to foreign husbands or wives after just a few years. Citizenship through such means is a fundamental human right that does not even need to be 'debated' in most countries.¬†Nepal is not the only country in the world surrounded by populous neigbours, yet few countries feel the need to enact such extreme laws.¬†I urge readers to do what they can to publicise this issue.
03 FEB 2012 | 2:13 PM NST
Thanks to my mother, I am here in this world and enjoy every moment of life. But motherland is something different. Motherland is mother of my mother. We can issue a provisional visa to them to work, study, travel without any restriction.
What about DNA test to verify the child's biological father when they refuse to acknowledge them? Is it costly to run this test? Why don't the moms seek any legal advice to track her child's father down? The mothers could have done it for fraud too. I would like to ask you one more question. Would you offer citizenship to those people who are born of unknown father due to conception in Mumbai brothel or somewhere else where our sisters and daughters are sold to? Or is there any other provision authorized to Maiti Nepal to get these things sorted out? What about the risk of spreading HIV/AIDS in community? Has Maiti Nepal got enough money to deal with it?
Shouldn't we seal the border with India now because of possible terrorist activities on our soil, threat on our citizens lives from illegal ransacking, theft, robbery, murder and plundering border villages by Indian robbers, thieves, criminals and sometimes by Indian Police, illegal trafficking of our sisters and daughters to the Indian brothels, and various other illegal and informal trade practices, unrestricted immigration of refugees?
We have a serious threat from India in terms of economic point of view too. This is the worst of all. They invest in Nepal and set up businesses but our people don't have jobs. Look at my home town, how many of the locals do have the jobs? If the locals are do not earn, how do they spend? If they can't spend how could the businesses and financial institutions survive? How can we maintain the cycle of consumer-driven economy? Nepalese have plunged deep into the debts and some banks use the goons as in Bollywood style bhailog to confiscate the property if they fail to repay the installments. Most of the construction workers, skilled tradesmen, technicians, teachers to Chartered Accountants, Managers, Finance Officers etc are Indian Nationals. Some of the jobs are taken away by Bangladeshi too since our Bangladeshi jwai has resided in Kathmandu.
Our GDP growth should not be taken as a correct economic indicator unless our locals find the jobs and we practice fair trade. We are surrounded by the criminals, thugs, administrators with short sightedness etc. Moreover, the property price has not come down despite of shrink in demands. These deflated assets soon bring our GDP down.
I can understand you Ms. Rubeena. I can only ask you to wait till our people get enlightened.
03 FEB 2012 | 2:24 PM NST
The law is plain stupid and should be changed. If the mother is a Nepali, the child should automatically have the right to Nepali citizenship. She is the only person who has definitely passed on her genes to the child. Only she knows who the father is. All of us men assume the children we have are ours but only our wives know the fact. It is because we thrust them that we accept the children as ours. To give less right to a mother is absurd.
03 FEB 2012 | 12:23 AM NST
4. indira oli Thank you Rubeena for a hard hitting article and as some of the comments above show we are still a highly¬†misogynistic¬†society. I think the male commentators above did not read your piece completely. Otherwise why are they calling for DNA tests and saying things like only mothers know the "true" father -making it seem like all of us go around sleeping with multiple men each week.¬†
First of all in many cases it is not possible to identify the 'father'. The father might have abandoned his wife and children and now refuses to recognise them. Or the father might be someone who frequently visits a brothel and when Nepali women in Bombay brothels serve up to 10 -20 men a day how can one figure out whose sperm it is?¬†
The more important issue here is to realise the equal rights of a Nepali mother regardless of whether her husband or male partner can be¬†identified¬†or not. Which means my daughter, whose father is known, should get a citizenship on my name or on her father's name, who ever she chooses.¬†Similarly, the son of a Nepali woman who was sold into prostitution in India, should also be eligible for a¬†citizenship¬†based on his mother's papers regardless of the fact that the father is unknown or that the sperm may have belonged to an Indian/Chinese/Mexican/German man. YES even the son of a Nepali women and an Indian man is a NEPALI.¬†
Also this might be too radical for a society like Nepal, but what about single mothers? Women who have children but who choose not to get married or be associated with the sperm donors?¬†
05 FEB 2012 | 8:19 AM NST
5. Astha K thank you rubeena and also indira for your sensible comment. i think one of the biggest problems in Nepal is that we women don't speak up as often as we should - on the floor of the house or on facebook pages, or on the comment sections of newspapers. we remain silent even on matters which directly concern us.
one thing that rubeena missed out (that i know is sadly not a priority on the national agenda) but which is personally important to me, is what happens when there are two¬†mothers involved? what happens when a Nepali lesbian couple decides to adopt a child or conceive one through medical intervention? how does the child get citizenship, or will he/she be rendered stateless as well? at a time when same-sex marriages might be legalised in the new¬†constitution, this is an important question to be asking. but unfortunately since our country is in such a big political mess, and since we are still a very intolerant society when it comes to sexuality, i guess this issue will have to remain in the closet just like us.
05 FEB 2012 | 7:17 PM NST
6. A Nepali
Excellent write-up by Rubeena, and¬†astute comments from the women commentators. An¬†additional scenario to include in the discussions...would an adopted child by a Nepali couple or a Nepali single parent (either father or mother) be eligible for citizenship? The new Nepali constitution should reflect the modern times and not the middle ages.
05 FEB 2012 | 7:45 PM NST
7. Renu Shrestha
Finally we are having a healthy discussion on such an important topic. Children of mothers who conceived after being raped in brothels, children of single mothers, children of lesbian mothers, children of parents with mixed nationalities, adopted children - each one of them has full rights to citizenship.
Enough of the ultra-nationalist, 'we must protect the purity of mother nepal' bullshit. Denying citizenship to innocent children many of whom come from very disadvantaged backgrounds is not going to safeguard our country's sovereignty. Maybe if the U.S. and other developed countries stopped issuing DV and greencards and citizenship to foreign born nepali MEN, to protect their anglo-saxon purity. these fear mongering men would shut the F up!
06 FEB 2012 | 6:10 AM NST
Maybe it's time we all did the Lysistrata here. No sex with men until we get our rights. But would the wives of these rotten netas agree?
06 FEB 2012 | 10:38 AM NST
9. Mr. Poudel
I guess our government does not want to grant citizenship to the fatherless, fearing the thousands of children who might come to their "motherland" from Indian brothels, born through Nepali women sold there.
06 FEB 2012 | 5:39 PM NST
10. Mr. Poudel
@Astha K... It is a fact that most of the AID money that is granted to Nepal, comes with a homosexual and abortion agenda tied to it (remember Hilary Clinton's recent remarks in Geneva - let's say that the US government is finally coming out of the closet). We are talking about tens of millions of dollars and euros. So, the political mess that we find ourselves in, is for the most part fueled by AID money (60% of our national budget relies on Foreign Aid). Political parties receive huge amounts of kickbacks from foreign governments... no wonder the bloody mess.
You say that our society is intolerant of sexuality... Madam, wth!!!... The writer is talking about something very serious. She is talking about basic rights of the fatherless to 'EXIST', rights of single mothers, right to be treated equally as the men are (this is not a HUGE demand) and you defile the page with your petty sexual innuendo... aarrrrrrgggghhh! seriously.
Come on, I mean 40% of Nepalese do not have enough food to eat, millions of children go to bed hungry, hundreds of thousands of women are forced into prostitution (raped or otherwise), millions of youth are without work, everything is so expensive all of a sudden, we are drowning because of political corruption, foreing debt in the form of AID is suffocating us ('cuz AID don't come free sista), we have no cooking-gas, no fuel, no electricity, no clean water, rampant deforestation (then again, no firewood for us), lawlessness reigns, blah, blah, blah, bah, baaahh!! and you sulk about having to have sex in your closet... God help us!!! ... and you want it to be the national agenda. I am so mad reading your comment, all I can do is laugh... hahahahahehehehe... lol.
However, you can be sure you will get what you want, because of the massive amounts of money being poured into propagating the homosexual agenda by European and American governments (as you correctly pointed out the surety of legalization of same sex marriages). As for everything else it is just gonna get messed up... yea! at the end of the day we will have to pay a hefty bill for your sexuality for it is being forced on us with a price tag attached to it called The Foreign Aid.
Sister, there is a time for everything, you ill-timed your comment...
06 FEB 2012 | 5:44 PM NST
11. Kavitha Paul
What a poor attempt to hide your homophobic nature behind what seems to be a logically flawed, redundant argument that reeks of centuries of patriarchal thinking. I don't recall Astha K devaluing the "serious issues" this article¬† talks about. She merely seemed to point out that in this far-fetched race to equal human rights, there are still plenty of gaping holes that need to addressed. For the benefit your narrow-mindedness that is sadly preventing you from truly grasping the notion of equality in gender, I wish to tell you that fighting for the acceptance of homosexuality is not merely just a cause for two sex-maniacs who want to have "sex out of the closet" (as you were imprudent enough to suggest), it is a fight for human rights. It is extremely similar to the fight of the single mothers and the ethnic minorities and every other person out there who is underrepresented (or from the way you seem to be speaking, misrepresented).
If you are frustrated with US and European aid destroying Nepal's economy and contributing to the plethora of social issues that are on the rise, then to each it's own. I can even come to terms with your argument about why all the aid is only adding to the fire that is the political mess. But to foolishly attach it to a homosexual agenda and then to belittle it as a petty "sexual innuendo" exasperates me. In this day and age, where the whole concept of human rights is being revolutionized, there is no space for your pathetic unoriginality. This IS the right time, my friend. You are just in the wrong place.¬†
07 FEB 2012 | 7:31 AM NST
12. Astha K
Mr Poudel, I thought long and hard about whether to respond to you or let you live in your ignorant world. But I don't think you should get away so easily, masking your homophobia by using child poverty, malnourishment and load shedding as excuses. Unemployment, foreign debt, women trafficking, corruption are all important issues yes. But how long do you suppose it will take our male leaders to clean up this mess? 10 years? 20 years? I am willing to have sex in my closet and have my child be stateless, if you can guarantee me that within X number of years Nepal will be stable and it will be acceptable and ‚Äútimely‚ÄĚ of me and the community to bring up our western-funded, ‚Äúsexual innuendo‚ÄĚ agendas. It might be frivolous to you, but my concern of having equal marriage and citizenship rights for my children is as important as having water flowing from the taps or 24 hours electricity.
Let‚Äôs not create a hierarchy here: first the needs of the upper caste men, then the janjatis, then the women and then maybe 100 years from now the needs of the sexual minorities. If we work by this logic then the demands of ethnic minorities are also ill-timed. Why do they want their own federal states and greater representation at a time when the country is going through turmoil? Maybe they should also wait till Nepal is more politically and economically stable before they raise their voice? It‚Äôs not the first time I have heard ‚Äúyou can wait, your concerns are not important enough‚ÄĚ. But you see Mr Poudel, there is never a ‚Äúgood time‚ÄĚ for such matters, the time is now!
07 FEB 2012 | 9:52 AM NST
13. Poudel's gay lover
Mr. Poudel, if you could spare a minute, it would be great if you could google "innuendo", if you can't find a dictionary.¬†
Please identify the innuendo here - perhaps I'm too distracted by your laughable/sad ignorance and pitiably uneducated and narrow-minded language to spot the "innuendo".
I hope your self-righteous outrage will one day die down so you can see that gay rights are human rights, human issues. Sex in a closet, to use your phrasing, can be fun; that's not the issue. The issue at hand is dignity, respect and equality for those who live lives in ways you don't seem capable of comprehending with your blinkers of heteronormativity and hate.¬†
If you believe that it is acceptable to treat certain people as sub-human based on whom they love and want to build a family with, you exemplify what is wrong with the world today. People like you need look beyond this image of samesex couples getting it on and understand that real relationships and families exist with samesex couples the exact same way they do with hetero couples.¬†
What you are doing is trivialising the elimination of hate and discrimination. I hope you realise it before you make other uninformed comments.
07 FEB 2012 | 10:18 AM NST
Granting citizenship based on father's is wrong. How about making it mandatory for the hospitals/birthing¬†centers to hand out birth certificates for every birth; and providing local government jurisdictions the capacity to certify births in their wards or VDCs? ¬†This will neutralize this problem. A mother is always present at the time and place of birth, a father may not be.¬†
09 FEB 2012 | 5:30 PM NST
15. Bideshi Buhari
Thanks Rubeena for finally covering this issue. ¬†
Nepal seems to be going backwards on the citizenship issue. ¬†While other countries (even India) are moving to dual citizenship and more liberal policies for non-residents, Nepal is heading for even more restrictive measures. ¬†Many of these contradict the commitments Nepal has made under international conventions. ¬†Only in Nepal is a child not given citizenship at birth ! ¬†Ironic then that Nepal issues passports to those children who do travel as minors stating they are citizens while denying others that right until they are old enough for a ¬†precious "nagrita'. ¬†Sadly for many children parents die or abandon them and for a host of other reasons they are forever denied a legal identity in the land of their ancestors. The reality is that Nepalis need to be able to be more mobile than ever before for work, business and study. ¬†Many will be forced to take citizenship in another country just to be able to work to support a family back home. ¬†These restrictive citizenship rules benefit no one and reflect the paranoia of the elite that Indians will overrun the country. ¬†Already Indians can come here freely, work, start businesses, buy land for those businesses, marry and contribute. ¬†How would making fairer citizenship rules for Nepal's children change this ? ¬†If there are concerns that Indians will buy up all the agricultural land make residency requirements for land purchases. ¬†Do not punish the children of this country with the world's harshest citizenship requirements.¬†
16 FEB 2012 | 7:44 AM NST
What a strange discussion.
People are discussing prostitutes, single mothers, homosexuality. But citizenship is nothing to do with these.
This is a fundamental equality issue; the Nepali state is saying - in its most important political vision: the constitution - that a female Nepali is lower than a male - substantially lower in fact.
One wonders how women making up 1/3 of the constituent assembly can abide by this. What are they doing?
20 FEB 2012 | 2:06 AM NST
17. Binit Gurung
I wonder why CDOs still hesitate to issue citizenship ceritificates to those who produce their mother's citizenship, at the time of applying for citizenship card, despite the supreme court ruling in the favour of it. Is this a sort of mutiny or what? Whatever it is, people are becoming stateless because of this mindless bureaucratic glitch which needs to be rectified at the earliest.
27 FEB 2012 | 3:44 PM NST
This is an excellent article. I would urge Nepali times to continue publicising this critical issue, as it seems to have been hardly covered in the mainstream press.