Twitter screenshots from Rahul Chapagain and Manjushree ThapaTwitter screenshots from Rahul Chapagain and Manjushree Thapa

Women’s day in Nepal. Equality? Or Hypocrisy?

Women, rights activists, volunteers, media representatives are screaming – ‘equality for women’ which was said to be guaranteed by the constitution. But men don’t want to listen, and today, are holidaying – you know, celebrating ‘Women’s Day’.

However, the hypocrisy of the day should be unmissable today – all major newspapers have highlighted it – the recent developments (regression) in the ‘Citizenship Amendment Bill’. On Thursday,  a new provision was added – ‘when the father’s identity is unknown, the child of a female Nepalese citizen can obtain a citizenship after being able to provide an explanation why s/he does not have a father. Not only that, the government must maintain an official record stating the same.’

Think about it – if your father has left you, if your father has eloped with another woman, if you don’t know who your father is, if he is missing, or worse, you are a child from rape, you, or your mother has to be able to explain ‘where he is’. Wouldn’t it just be simpler to get the citizenship from the mother ? Or, should you, and your mother go looking for the father? I will give you an example – in Biratnagar lives a family of three siblings – their mother died during child-birth of the last son, the father re-married, started a new family. The three siblings were raised by their deceased mother’s sister – with other children and amidst great difficulty. Now, the children are becoming of ripe age – it is time they get their citizenship. By law, they are required to produce their birth details and their father’s citizenship details – the father of the family is unwilling to furnish them. The children are in a major dilemma, and there are thousands of such cases in the nation – each different, yet similar.

Everything is political.

A common defense for the reluctance in easily handing out citizenship through mother’s lineage is of ‘national security’, and you should know – it is politics. The defense narrative is – “In Nepal, along the Terai region, Indian men are marrying Nepalese women – their children will become Nepalese citizens in the future. A proliferation in the citizens in the Terai would mean an increased number of constituencies in the future – an increased number of constituencies would mean more representatives in the government. As it is no secret Terai politicians do not align politically with other politicians – basically, by curtailing women’s rights to issue citizenship to their children, we are protecting our national sovereignty”.

These are the two sides of the coin – we are here to furnish the information – you be the judge.

And yes, Happy Women’s Day!

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