citizenship act amendment

What Is Nepal’s Citizenship Act Amendment And Why Is It Important?

The Nepali Parliament endorsed the very first amendment to the Citizenship Act, 2006 some weeks ago. The citizenship document is one of the fundamental pillars of a country’s sovereignty; it forms the direct link between a citizen and his country, and allows him to engage in all the activities that a citizen has right to — from voting to purchasing property. 

So, it is only natural for people to be concerned over any changes that are taking place in their country’s citizenship laws. And the very first amendment to the Citizenship Act has been met with a lot of protests from concerned Nepalis. 

Nepalis are well-familiar with the narrative that our top politicians cozy up to the Indian government in order to gain favors. Sadly, we regularly see our top government officials going on interstate visits to the neighboring country. This trend has only made Nepalis suspect our politicians more. 

The recently passed amendment to the Citizenship Act has given more cause for concern to citizens because of some suspicious provisions. Here is all you need to know about the amendment to the Citizenship Act, and why it is causing such controversy. 

Fixing Gender Discriminatory Provisions, But Not Really

The citizenship laws of our country have disenfranchised many Nepalis, and robbed them of the right to a citizenship. According our laws, a person can only get a citizenship by descent from their father’s name. It has proven almost impossible for a person to get the citizenship by descent from their mother’s name. 

The reason behind such a discriminatory and senseless provision has to do with an outdated belief about the patrilineal nature of Nepali society. Activists have been lobbying for this useless provision to be changed for years. In the meanwhile, countless young Nepalis whose fathers are not in their lives have been unable to make use of even the most basic government or social functions because they don’t have a citizenship. 

Well, the Citizenship Act amendment includes a fix to this issue — but the change is so ill-written that it still leaves many people out in the dust. The amendment proposes that a person will be able to get their Nepali citizenship by descent under their mother’s name, but only if she is willing to swear that she does not know who the child’s father is. 

In addition to this, if this sworn statement is ever proved to be false at any time in the future, then she has to face some serious punishments which include imprisonment. 

This provision clearly disregards many Nepalis whose fathers are not willing to let them get the citizenship under their name. In some cases, the familial conflict is so serious that the fathers may even threaten to get the mother imprisoned under this provision. 

Relaxing Laws On Naturalized Citizenship Under Suspicious Circumstances

This amendment has mainly come under fire because of the changes it proposes to the process of naturalized citizenship. The gender discrimination continues in these processes as well. Under the new amendment, a woman from a foreign country who marries a Nepali man can immediately apply for a Nepali citizenship as soon as she renounces her foreign citizenship.

However, the same does not apply to a foreign man who marries a Nepali woman. In fact, there is no provision for such a person to get a naturalized citizenship in our country. 

It is this fast track to citizenship for foreign women included in the amendment that has been attracting much attention from the public. You see, this amendment is virtually similar to another amendment that was proposed by KP Sharma Oli during his last tenure as the prime minister. 

Similar amendments, which make it easy for foreign citizens to get Nepali citizens, have apparently been implemented and scrapped more than once over the course of Nepali democracy.

By all appearances, this is a standard tactic used by Nepali politicians to win elections. Those who are raising a voice against this amendment are voicing concerns that this trend might soon turn over overt control of the Nepali government to figureheads and representatives of India. 

The repeated trend of such a citizenship provision, and the fact that the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government tried to push this amendment through as quick as possible, raised alarm bells among citizens. But right now, the issue is making headlines yet again after President Bidhya Devi Bhandari refused to ratify the amendment with her signature for a second time.  

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