As Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa tabled in Parliament the bill to amend the Citizenship Act-2006 for ensuring citizenship in the mother’s name, lawmakers from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) were working on a draft amendment proposal on Monday claiming that the new measures would make citizenship from mother more difficult.
Lawmakers object to the provision which requires a woman to either identify her husband or prove that the father of her child is unknown before the applicant is granted citizenship. This applies to someone who seeks citizenship based on their mother’s nationality. However, those applying for citizenship based on their father’s nationality need not produce evidence of the mother.
Lawmakers argue that this provision makes getting citizenship in the mother’s name more difficult. “We were not happy with the constitutional provisions, but the amendment bill has further complicated the process,” said NCP lawmaker Anjana Bishankhe, who is preparing the amendment proposal.
With the new provision, it would be difficult for children born from rape and to single mothers as they have to apply to the Chief District Officer giving such details. Lawmakers said the provision of declaring father’s identity will make it difficult for single mothers and widows to apply for their child’s citizenship.
Political parties had agreed after much pressure to citizenship from mother as a constitutional provision. Women rights activists are demanding that children born to a woman who holds the Nepali citizenship by descent must be recognised even if the identity of the father remains unknown. They have also demanded that children born of rape or those whose father remains unknown be given citizenship without mentioning insulting terms like “father unidentified”. The amendment bill also states that authorities recommending citizenship based on fake details would be handed a jail term of three months to one year and Rs10,000 to Rs25,000 fine or both. Lawmakers have objected also to the proposed penalty. “Which official will recommend citizenship in the mother’s name knowing the likely action,” said lawmaker Bishankhe.
Lawmakers can register their amendments to the bill by Wednesday. Bishankhe hopes there will be support from lawmakers of other parties too. “I hope my party won’t issue a ‘whip’ to bar them from registering amendments as most of the female lawmakers seek amendment,” she said.
In January last year, the Supreme Court ruled that no child of Nepali mother should be deprived of citizenship just because the identity of the father is not established. The SC’s ruling came after two children of a Nepali mother moved the court after they were denied citizenship because the whereabouts of their father were unknown.
A study conducted by the Forum for Women Law and Development (FWLD) five years ago showed that around 900,000 children eligible for citizenship were living with single mother while another 70,000 were living with their single father. Women rights activist Advocate Meera Dhungana said more than 80 percent of them have difficulties acquiring citizenship.
On Sunday, the FWLD organised an interaction with the lawmakers on the discriminatory clauses of the amendment bill. MPs including Metmani Chaudhary, Purna Kumari Subedi, Tirtha Gautam, Mayadevi Neupane, Sarita Neupane, Nira Jairu, Anjana Bishankhe and Parbati Bishankhe criticised the discriminatory provisions of the bill.