KATHMANDU, Sept 25: Expressing concerns over some of the provisions of the Citizenship Bill which is currently under-discussion in parliament, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity together with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, have written to the government of Nepal recently.
In a letter to the government, they have argued that the current legislation discriminates against women eligible for Nepali citizenship by birth who were married to foreigners, barring them from accessing citizenship by descent (Section 8, Sub-section 1, clause a).
“The bill would eliminate those discriminatory provisions by applying the same rule to both men and women married to foreigners, requiring proof that they have not acquired the nationality of their spouse’s country or, if they have, to produce proof of having renounced to it since (Section 6, Sub-section 1, clause a1),” reads the letter.
The trio has expressed concern that the bill would continue to discriminate systematically against women, regarding their ability to transmit citizenship through marriage to their children.
In their letter, they have stated that in the case of single mothers conferring citizenship to their children, Nepali women who reside in Nepal could confer citizenship by descent if the child’s father is Nepali and the mother declares so; if the father is foreign, the child could only have naturalised citizenship (Section 3, Sub-section 6 of the bill).
“On the other hand, a Nepali father would always confer citizenship by descent to his children regardless of the mother’s nationality. These discriminatory provisions, present in the current legislation, would remain in the bill (Section 3, Sub-sections 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8),” reads the letter.
However, the bill would introduce a positive change regarding the requirements of proof for obtaining citizenship for children of non-identified Nepali fathers.
“The new provision would require only the self-declaration of the mother or by the person acquiring citizenship (in case the mother is deceased or is mentally impaired) in that regard (Section 3, Sub-section 7). This would simplify access to citizenship for the children of single mothers. In addition, the bill would allow for divorced women to request a new citizenship certificate removing the details of her former husband and including her father’s or mother’s details instead (Section 17, Sub-section 3),” they said in the letter.
Likewise, there remain discriminatory provisions regarding the ability of Nepali men and women to confer citizenship to a foreign spouse, they said.
“Whereas a foreign woman married to a Nepali man can obtain citizenship after seven years of residence in the country (Section 5, Sub-section 1), there are no provisions that would set similar conditions to a foreign man married to a Nepali woman. Therefore, in such cases, the general provisions for all foreigners regardless of marital status would apply, i.e., being a resident for 15 years in order to access citizenship (Section 5, Subsection 4, clause d of the Citizenship Act),” reads the letter.
The trio has observed that the elimination of discrimination regarding access to citizenship by descent to individuals married to foreigners is undermined by the fact that the bill would require that they produce proof of not having acquired the spouses’ nationality or having renounced to it (Section 6, Sub-section 1, clause a1).
“Producing such proof may be difficult and time-consuming and stands in contrast to other provisions in the bill that limit such burden by accepting self-declarations or proof of having initiated the corresponding procedures (as for instance on Section 5, Sub-section 1A),” they further said.