Bhim Rawal in Kantipur, 11 July
The draft constitution does not prevent children of Nepali citizens from acquiring Nepali citizenship. The question is only about whether they are entitled to citizenship by descent or naturalised citizenship. If the father or mother is a foreigner, children can acquire citizenship by descent but a foreigner father/mother has to have naturalised citizenship.
Despite such liberal provisions in the draft, there are misleading arguments that Nepalis have been denied the right to acquire citizenship through mothers’ names. If you argue that the children of a Nepali married to a foreigner and living in the country of their spouse should also be entitled to citizenship by descent, your logic cannot be valid.
If you argue that foreigners married to a Nepali man or a woman should be treated equally, will you accept a provision that requires female foreigners married to Nepali men to wait for a certain period (seven years for example) to be able to apply for naturalised citizenship? To those who invoke international laws and practices to demand Nepali citizenship to foreigners, are you also ready to follow same rules to manage our border and migration? Can an international law practiced in one area is not applicable to another area? Even countries like India and the US consider barring those born elsewhere from reaching the top executive posts, is it logical for Nepal to accept foreigners as heads of constitutional bodies and security forces? It is unfortunate to see some people demanding shortest possible way to grant citizenship to foreigners, that too by descent.
It would be wiser for Nepalis to discuss the citizenship issue as true nationalist. Vested interests and emotion do not bode well for Nepal’s sovereign existence. We need a constitution to protect our sovereignty, independence, unity, prosperity and welfare. We cannot allow a constitutional provision that risks our national interests.
Many countries do not easily grant citizenships to foreigners. They just give Permanent Resident (PR) cards to immigrants. When immigrants apply for citizenship, they are required to take an oath and attend an orientation about importance of citizenship. But Nepal does not have any of these provisions despite having to deal with some sensitive issues of population management. We share a long porous border with India, allowing the unbridled inflow of migrants not only from India but the whole South Asia region. Bhutanese refugees entered Nepal. We still have Tibetan refugees, even refugees from Africa. The citizenship debate should keep the rights and welfare of genuine Nepalis at centre-stage.
Sapana Pradhan Malla and Aruna Uprety in Kantipur, 17 July
Thank you, Bhim Rawalji. You article on citizenship has prompted us to engage in this debate.
Nepali male citizens, even if their wives are foreigners, can easily give their children citizenship by descent. But the new constitution requires both father ‘and’ mother to be Nepali citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent. However, the article 13 (2) of the draft constitution slyly enables foreigner wives of Nepali men to get naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage.
Children of Nepalis married to foreigners (male or female) should be born in Nepal to acquire Nepali citizenship by descent. And Nepali women will have rights to give their children citizenship by descent only if their husbands’ identity cannot be ascertained.
Foreigners married to Nepali men can apply for naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage. But foreigners married to Nepali women should live in Nepal for 15 years to enjoy this right. If foreigners married to Nepalis do not want Nepal’s naturalised citizenship, their children will only get naturalised citizenship. But even for that matter, they should be born in Nepal.
Rawalji, please try to read those provisions in the draft constitution through the eyes of a Nepali woman. Why are we so paranoid about the inflow of illegal immigrants? People migrate to countries with lots of opportunities, don’t they? Do foreigners need Nepali citizenship to commit crimes here? If we allow Nepalis to choose their spouses from any country, why would we restrict their right to settle down in whichever country they want?
Yes, we have a long porous border with India. But Indians cannot get Nepali citizenship just by crossing the border. They have to follow certain Nepali laws to be entitled to Nepali citizenship. Our nationality and sovereignty will be at risk only if we promote politics of discrimination. We are afraid that you might be playing politics of division. If we want our nation’s independence, how could we let Nepali women be dependent on Nepali men? Is our national sovereignty really so fragile that it gets lost even if we safeguard human rights?
You presented the example of Bhutan to show that there are countries that require both fathers and mothers to be citizens for their children to get citizenship by descent. But Bhutan is an exception. Some 119 democratic constitutions of the world require just father or mother to be their citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent.
Why does the draft constitution want Nepali women married to foreigners to deliver children in Nepal? If this constitution gets promulgated, what happens if Nepali women get married to foreigners and become mothers abroad? What happens to those Nepali women who deliver children while working in the Gulf?
Did your UML party not promise to give citizenship through mothers’ names during the Constituent Assembly elections? Has the Interim Constitution-2007 not allowed Nepali women to give their children citizenship by descent through their names alone? We were expecting the new constitution to be more progressive than the interim one, but it has taken a step back.
You argue that the draft constitution allows Nepalis to get citizenship through their father or mother’s name. Yes, the article 12 (2) of the draft constitution allows Nepalis to acquire citizenship either through their father’s or mother’s name. But the article 12 (2) can be applicable only if a person’s father and mother are both Nepali citizens. This is cheating.
You asked if we are ready to accept a provision requiring foreigners married to Nepali men to wait at least seven years to get naturalised citizenship. What if we reject this provision? Will foreigners married to Nepali women be forced to wait 15 years for naturalised citizenship? What about granting them Permanent Resident (PR) cards to foreigners married to Nepal women until they get naturalised citizenship?
You blame us for demanding citizenship by descent to foreigners. We are demanding citizenship by descent to our children, not to foreigners. How can the children born out of the wombs of Nepali women be foreigners just because their fathers are foreigners? By this same logic, how can the children born out of the wombs of foreign women be Nepalis just because their fathers hold Nepali citizenship certificates?
We are concerned about Nepal’s sovereignty as much as you are. But we fear the decisions that you politicians make while reaching power-sharing deals in the constitution making process will lead to foreign intervention in our internal affairs.
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