The Right to identity

Today, as I sit on my chair trying to finish an article, a sense of melancholy has seized my heart. I have tried numerous ways to avoid the soreness but all in vain, I am unable to come up with a single line.

Yesterday, I sat on the same chair for hours. I was pretty settled in my chair with a cup of coffee by my side. But I was unable to write as numerous questions kept coming in my mind.

I kept questioning, for how long will we need to advocate women rights, and for how long should women continue to bear social stigmas?

Among the major issues facing women, one deals with their identity. The ruling by the High-level Political Task Force (HPTF) that both father and mother should be citizens of Nepal in order to obtain citizenship by descent has raised numerous questions.

As per the provision, a foreigner married to a Nepali woman and wanting to obtain citizenship by naturalisation should have permanently settled in Nepal for at least 15 years. But this does not apply to a foreign woman. Any foreign woman married to a Nepali man automatically obtains such citizenship soon after she renounces the citizenship of her country.

A citizenship certificate is directly related to the life of the people. One needs the certificate to apply for a government job, to open a bank account, to register births and marriages, to acquire passports and to enjoy the full rights provided by the state.

The report of the Forum for Law Development and Women (FLDW) says a total 17,983,230 Nepalese received citizenship in 2067 – 2068 B.S. Of them, 17,433,346 received citizenship based on descent, while 241,720 received citizenship by birth.

Likewise, 128 persons acquired citizenship in the mother’s name, 301,084 through marital naturalisation while 67 applications were filled in by children of a foreign father and Nepali mother, the report says.

The data show that the provision has undermined the rights of women in accessing citizenship and forced the children to remain stateless. Citizenship is directly linked with the identity and self dignity of a person.

Yet, one must profess that much has changed over the years. The verdict given by the Supreme Court allowing a person to acquire citizenship in a mother’s name is indeed a milestone towards enhancing women’s rights. But then, the order has yet to be implemented. The political parties have a role in doing away with discriminatory laws and making them gender-friendly through healthy discussion and dialogue.

As long as there is prejudice against one gender or the other, we cannot achieve human rights and peace. It is now time to break the silence, let’s call for a world where every woman is treated with respect and dignity. Justice delayed is justice denied. The right to identity is the right to a person’s recognition.


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