KATHMANDU, Dec 14:CPN-UML Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai on Monday said that open border between Nepal and India has to be regulated in order to open doors for equal rights of citizenship for men and women.
Responding to the woes of scores of 'stateless' boys and girls born to Nepali mothers and non-Nepali or absconding or dead fathers during a public hearing program held in the capital, Bhattarai said that depriving eligible ones of Nepali citizenship is never the spirit of the constitution.
“Few provisions are yet to be revised in order to do away with the gender discrimination,” he admitted. “But, while saying this, we should not forget that we cannot relax citizenship laws in a way to make it equal for men and women until and unless the open border with India is strictly regulated. We cannot overlook cultural and social practices,” he added.
Meanwhile, alluding to Madhes-based leaders, Bhattarai stated that 'some leaders' only talk about 'roti-beti' bond across the border and complain of discriminatory conditions on citizenship though neither the neighbor provided roti when Nepal was just struck by devastating earthquake nor the leaders actually care about the rights of beti.
“We could go for equal citizenship provision for all Nepali nationals, like providing naturalized citizenship to non-Nepalis married to Nepalis after certain years, if some leaders had been supportive. But they created obstructions and put unfair conditions,” he said.
Lawmaker and Sadbhawana Party co-chairman Laxmal Lal Karna, had earlier said in his speech at the program said that 'the ghost of nationality has brainwashed the leaders' forcing them to formulate unequal laws. He did not speak on the issue of border, but suggested that the constitution could give equal citizenship rights to both men and women and yet protect its nationality by adequately verifying the citizenship applicant.
“If the state's intention is really not to deprive children born to Nepali mothers or fathers of the right to citizenship, why can't the CDO office check the facts well and approve or reject the applicant for the citizenship? We must focus on such a mechanism which provides eligible ones citizenship with all dignity and at the same time restricts others from getting it,” he said.
A Nepali man's wife, whether she be a Nepali or foreigner, can get citizenship through him on marital basis, according to the constitution. However, the constitution is silent whether a Nepali woman can transfer her identity to the man she marries. On the other hand, though the constitution states that citizenship can be obtained either through mother or father, there are sub clauses regarding citizenship through mother. It categorizes, which type of mother's child, the citizenship seeker is. Whether the Nepali mother conceived her through Nepali man or non Nepali man and similarly whether the father's whereabouts is known or has to be proved in order to show the category the applicant falls in, in order to claim the citizenship. And when the applicant fails to produce enough documents to prove his or her eligibility to get citizenship, the card becomes a distant dream, according to Suresh Hazare Dahal, one of the participants in the program. Born and brought up in Nepal through Nepali mother and Indian father who is no more alive, he has been struggling to get citizenship for years now, he said.
The program was organized by Sancharika Samuha, which took the initiative to call participants from different parts of the country to share their plights while trying to obtain citizenship.