Nepali Times
Stateless in their motherland


Among the many cases of abuse of human rights and injustice in Nepal that need to be addressed by the new constitution, one of the most widespread is the systematic discrimination against women and children in obtaining citizenship.

Draft recommendations by a high-level task force for the new constitution, while trying to correct discriminatory provisions in interim constitution and the 2006 Citizenship Act, have made it even more difficult for children and spouses of Nepalis to get citizenship. After public pressure in the Madhes, the interim government in 2007 gave out citizenship certificates to more than 2.5 million people, mostly in the Tarai, but one in six Nepalis is still without citizenship papers.

Maoist lawmaker Jayapuri Gharti admits that every child is entitled to Nepali citizenship in the name of the mother. "But," she adds, "citizenship is also tied to national interest and it cannot be ignored."

Gharti used to be much more forthcoming about the unequivocal rights of Nepalis to gain citizenship if either parent is Nepali. Her caution is now reflected across party lines where there is fear that relaxing citizenship rules will favour Madhesi parties and have demographic and electoral consequences.

Nepal's 2011 census questionnaire has a tick box for third gender, and even allows same-sex marriage, but on granting citizenship to its own citizens the draft of the new constitution is one of the most regressive. In fact, Nepal will be one of only two countries in the world where children can't be citizens by descent unless both parents are nationals.

Paradoxically, while genuine Nepali women, or naturalised children of Nepalis married to foreigners, are denied citizenship many non-Nepali men are caught with fake citizenship certificates or passports issued through bribery and have even been elected to office.

Citizenship provisions in the new constitution also violate various international human rights treaties of which Nepal is a signatory, including the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

At a CEDAW review meeting in New York on Tuesday, member Pamela Cross had tough questions on draft provisions in the Nepali constitution: "Why is even the language of the new constitution not able to address the inequality in conferring citizenship to children and spouse?" Nepal's permanent representative, Gyan Chandra Acharya, replied that the constitution was not yet finalised and "due note would be taken".

Other provisions in the draft deny children whose father is unknown automatic citizenship by descent, and put parents who don't have citizenship on the same legal category as those who obtain citizenship by fraud. The provision prohibiting dual nationality also penalises children of parents who have to renounce their foreign passports before they apply for Nepali nationality. But since Nepali citizenship takes so long, children of such parents will be in protracted limbo.

Activists say the citizenship provisions in the new draft constitution reek of paranoia and pseudo-nationalism. Sharada Pokharel of the group, , says: "If a child born out of a foreigner mother, fathered by a Nepali can be entitled to citizenship, why should a child mothered by a Nepali be denied the same privilege?"

Rights experts recommend that two provisions in the proposed draft should be changed immediately to conform to international norms. One is to automatically ensure citizenship by descent to children if either parent is Nepali, and the second to expedite Nepali citizenship to spouses who wish to renounce their previous passport so their children do not suffer prolonged statelessness.

With additional reporting by Anurag Acharya


New draft provisions on citizenship would mean:
1. Children of mixed marriages ineligible for Nepali citizenship unless foreign parent switches nationality
2. Children of Nepali women married to foreigners would have to wait at least 15 years for their children to have Nepali citizenship
3. Children of a Nepali father will be denied citizenship if he doesn't help his wife get Nepali citizenship
4. Children of Nepali parents who don't have citizenship, or are unable to get one can't be citizens
5. Children whose parents' request for citizenship is rejected will remain stateless
6. Children abandoned by their fathers face hurdles in obtaining citizenship
7. Children of a parent in the process of switching to Nepali nationality will be stateless until the process is complete
8. A Nepali woman can't get automatic citizenship for her foreign husband even though a Nepali man can get one for his foreign wife

1. leguwa

These new provisions are shameful. What is deeply disturbing is that this is not some archaic law from decades past which has yet to be repealed (indeed most countries have some of these). Instead, political actors have actually consciously discussed and agreed upon these provisions, even reversing previous 'progressive' rulings.  This serves to highlight how completely out of touch the political establishment is with international norms and realities. The fact that so called 'progressive' parties can espouse such reactionary positions makes me doubt their legitimacy. If this is finalised in the constitution, it could result in the disenfranchisment of tens of thousands, particularly in the border regions.

2. Rajaram
In 2010 India became the top receiver of remittance $56 Billion.Instead of workers now the richer overseas Indians are sendind money as investment in stocks, housing and varios sectors. about eight lacs are going out and equal numbers are returning back.
PIO( People of Indian Origin)Have received identity cards,along with visa-free entry andbenefits as non-resident Indians. Now they can put their childreninto medical schools,start business and make investments. Now they are moving towards Dual-Citizenship.

The Chinese can also teach  us how to harness the power of the diaspora. They are fifty-five million strong.Two-third of the FDI comes from them.
Indians are more than 20 million out side the country.
Nepal must not loose track of them and give Overseas identity for three generations of Nepali who were once holding Nepali citizenship card.
Why not allow the one with already Nepali citizenship to retain the card and recognize Dual Citizenship,including their children.
A few seats should be reserved in the new parliament ,upper house for overseas Nepalis as in China.
 Once a Nepali always a Nepali. Don. t loose this asset. Give this facility to residents of select countries at the first instance as experiment. Those in India don,t need it ,so this is not complicated.
 At least allow them to retain their citizenship card.

3. foreigner
Nepali are afraid of Indians pooring in, but they are already here. Indians are all over and work hard, without them, Nepal would collapse.
The racism in Nepal against foreigners, other castes, other religions etc is deeply rooted and already in childrens head. Foreigners do not understand what the children call them and what they say, they would be shocked if they would know the reality. Nepal is not an open country, people are still in the dark, boxi, budh, etc.
 And intermarriage, arranged marriage, incest, being landlocked, took its toll. Do not be afraid of foreign blood , ideas and customs if Nepal wants part of the international society. Or close the border again and call the maharaja back.

4. LN
"Give this facility to residents of select countries at the first instance as experiment". 

I cannot even begin to imagine that people actually think it is fair for Nepalis residing in certain parts of the world should have the right to dual citizenship while others should not. Heights of  hypocrisy.

5. jange

Maoist lawmaker Jayapuri Gharti admits that....

How can an MP from an ethnic minority belonging to a progressive revolutionary party be wrong?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)