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Women’s Right to Nationality in Nepal

April 1, 2006

Women’s Right to Nationality in Nepal

Mameeta Nepali Giri

Women consist of 51 percent of the population of Nepal but Nepalese society is dominated by men. The Society of Nepal is based on a patriarchal system which is run by a defective value system rather than the laws of the nation. Women are denied of the right to liberty, equality and property along with other rights.

Women in Nepal are treated as second class citizens. They do not have the right to entity. They are deprived of the right to provide nationality or citizenship to their family members.

They are discriminated clearly in the existing nationality laws of Nepal. Regarding citizenship, a person who is born in Nepal and whose father is a citizen of Nepal at the time of birth, ipso facto becomes a Nepali citizen by descent, whereas the same right is not given to a child whose mother is a Nepali citizen. A Woman of foreign nationality who is married to a Nepali citizen may acquire Nepali citizenship; however, a foreign man who has married a Nepali woman is not entitled to acquire Nepali citizenship by virtue of such marriage. Nepali laws give women equal rights with men in acquiring, changing or retaining their nationality. In practice, however, Nepali citizenship of an applicant's father, brother or husband is required to provide citizenship to a son, daughter, brother or wife. This practice makes it difficult to acquire citizenship through a Nepali mother or wife. Due to these discriminatory laws, which deprive women of right to provide citizenship to their family members, severe problems like statelessness, lack of  ownership of  property, lack of  individual identity, and denial of political, social, economic and civil rights are also seen multiplying day by day in Nepal.

Though the previous constitution of Nepal had guaranteed such rights to women, these rights were only on paper. These rights were neither entertained nor practiced. Women were always kept backward.

The prevailing constitution, “The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990“which is called one of the best constitution of South Asia, did not include any provisions of women’s entity rights or right to citizenship. Similarly the “Citizenship Act and Regulation 1993” also has discriminatory provisions for against women concerning the citizenship issue. The national laws, constitution, regulations and procedures have been seen clearly discriminatory towards women.

According to the Treaty Act 1990 of Nepal, any treaty to which Nepal becomes a party, if inconsistent with the existing laws, such laws are void to the extent of the inconsistency and the provision of the treaty prevails as the law of Nepal; but the provision has not been entertained so far.

Article 9 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) convention states that women should be guaranteed with the right to provide nationality to their family members. Similarly article 7 of the International Convention on Rights of Children (CRC) also states that a child should not be deprived of nationality in the course of right to identity. Nepal is a party of these treaties. Under these international conventions, Nepal is obligated to make necessary laws or amend the discriminatory laws relating to the nationality issues too. Eliminating all forms of discriminatory laws should be the prime concern of the Government of Nepal.

No one has the right to deprive anyone of ones rights. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Law provides equal protection to all and no one should be discriminated against therefore all international communities, human rights organizations and supporters of human rights should initiate dialogue with the Government of   Nepal in order to guarantee equal protection to the women. Discriminatory laws can be abolished if the international sector pressures Nepal. Likewise, political parties and the insurgents should also be directed in this regard. Therefore with common global effort, women in Nepal can feel equal in reality.  

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