24-30 July 2015 #768

Who will be a Nepali

Bhim Rawal in Kantipur, 11 July


The draft constitution does not prevent children of Nepali citizens from acquiring Nepali citizenship. The only question is whether they are entitled to citizenship by descent or by naturalised citizenship. If the father or mother is a foreigner, children can acquire citizenship by descent but a foreigner father/mother has to have naturalised citizenship. 

Despite such liberal provisions in the draft, there are misleading arguments that Nepalis have been denied the right to acquire citizenship through mothers’ names. If you argue that the children of a Nepali married to a foreigner and living in the country of their spouse should also be entitled to citizenship by descent, your logic cannot be valid.

If you argue that foreigners married to a Nepali man or a woman should be treated equally, will you accept a provision that requires female foreigners married to Nepali men to wait for a certain period (seven years for example) to be able to apply for naturalised citizenship?  To those who invoke international laws and practices to demand Nepali citizenship to foreigners, are you also ready to follow the same rules to manage our border and migration? Can international law practiced in one area not be applicable to another? If countries like India and the US consider barring those born elsewhere from reaching top executive posts, is it logical for Nepal to accept foreigners as heads of constitutional bodies and security forces?  It is unfortunate to see some people demanding the shortest possible way to grant citizenship to foreigners, by descent at that.  

It would be wiser for Nepalis to discuss the citizenship issue as true nationalists. Vested interests and emotions do not bode well for Nepal’s sovereign existence. We need a constitution to protect our sovereignty, independence, unity, prosperity and welfare. We cannot allow a constitutional provision that jeopardises our national interest.

Many countries do not easily grant citizenship to foreigners. They just give Permanent Resident (PR) cards to immigrants. And when they apply for citizenship, they are required to take an oath and attend an orientation about the importance of citizenship. But Nepal does not have any of these provisions despite having to deal with some sensitive issues of population management. We share a long porous border with India, allowing the unbridled inflow of migrants not only from India but from the whole South Asia region. Bhutanese refugees were in Nepal. We still have Tibetan refugees, even refugees from Africa. The citizenship debate should keep the rights and welfare of genuine Nepalis at centre-stage.

Sapana Pradhan Malla and Aruna Uprety in Kantipur, 17 July

Thank you, Bhim Rawalji. Your article on citizenship has prompted us to engage in this debate.Nepali male citizens, even if their wives are foreigners, can easily give their children citizenship by descent. But the new constitution requires both father ‘and’ mother to be Nepali citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent.

However, the article 13 (2) of the draft constitution slyly enables foreigner wives of Nepali men to get naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage. Children of Nepalis married to foreigners (male or female) should be born in Nepal to acquire Nepali citizenship by descent. And Nepali women will have rights to give their children citizenship by descent only if their husbands’ identity cannot be ascertained.

Foreigners married to Nepali men can apply for naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage. But foreigners married to Nepali women should live in Nepal for 15 years to enjoy this right. If foreigners married to Nepalis do not want or do not get Nepal’s naturalised citizenship, their children will only get naturalised citizenship. But even for naturalised citizenship, they should be born in Nepal. On the one hand, the proposed clause looks equal in conferring citizenship to the children even if their ‘father or mother’ is married to foreigner. But on the other hand, a female foreigner married to a Nepali man can get citizenship immediately after marriage, whereas a male foreigner married to a Nepali woman has to wait for 15 years. So there is discrimination against Nepali daughters. Why are we so paranoid about the inflow of illegal immigrants? People migrate to countries where there are opportunities, don’t they? Do foreigners need Nepali citizenship to commit crimes here? If we allow Nepalis to choose their spouses from any country, why would we restrict their right to domicile in whichever country they want? How can we infringe on her right to family?

Yes, we have a long porous border with India. But Indians cannot get Nepali citizenship just by crossing the border. They have to follow certain Nepali laws to be entitled to Nepali citizenship. Our sovereignty will be at risk only if we promote politics of discrimination. Is our national sovereignty really so fragile that it gets lost even if we safeguard human rights?

Some 119 democratic constitutions of the world require just father or mother to be their citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent.You also gave the example of the USA, saying one has to be born there to become the country’s president. But do we have any legitimacy to raise this question when we require children of Nepalis married to foreigners be born in Nepal to get citizenship by descent? And any Nepali national born in US can become US President if s/he acquires citizenship.

Why does the draft constitution want Nepalis married to foreigners to deliver children in Nepal? If this constitution gets promulgated, what happens if Nepali (men and women) get married to foreigners and become parents abroad? What happens to those Nepali women who deliver children while working in the Gulf?

Did your UML party not promise to give citizenship through mothers’ names during the Constituent Assembly elections? Has the Interim Constitution-2007 not allowed Nepali women to give their children citizenship by descent through their names alone?

You argue that the draft constitution allows Nepalis to get citizenship through their father or mother’s name. Yes, Article 12 (2) of the draft constitution allows Nepalis to acquire citizenship either through their father’s or mother’s name. But Article 12 (2) can be applicable only if a person’s father and mother are both Nepali citizens.This is misleading.

You asked if people are ready to accept a provision requiring foreigners married to Nepali men to wait at least seven years to get naturalised citizenship. What if they reject this provision? Will foreigners married to Nepali women be forced to wait 15 years for naturalised citizenship? What about granting them Permanent Resident (PR) cards to foreigners married to Nepal women until they get naturalised citizenship?

You blame us for demanding citizenship by descent to foreigners. We are demanding citizenship by descent to our children, not to foreigners. How can the children born from the wombs of Nepali women be foreigners just because their fathers are foreigners? By this same logic, how can the children born from the wombs of foreign women be Nepalis just because their fathers hold Nepali citizenship? We are concerned about Nepal’s sovereignty as much as you are.

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