House passes amendment to Nepal’s citizenship law. Here are 3 major changes the bill will make

The House of Representatives on Friday endorsed an amendment to Nepal’s citizenship law by majority votes. The bill will now move to the National Assembly before the president enacts this to become a part of the citizenship law.

Over recent years, Nepal’s parliament and other stakeholders have talked a lot about the country’s citizenship law. The bill to amend the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2006, had been pending in parliament since August 2018.

The bill was discussed time and again, yet the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of the House of Representatives was not able to build a consensus on the bill. Despite the discussions, even major political parties have been at odds over the provision to grant citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali men.

Citing this, the government, as recently as July 5, withdrew the bill to amend the citizenship law. This brought a lot of criticism, but the government was so determined that it made the House pass the bill through a fast track method at the House of Representatives.

In doing so, it has addressed three major issues concerning the citizenship law. They are explained here.

1. Statelessness of citizens by birth

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Representational sketch

Before the constitution was drafted in 2015, the government would also issue citizenship by birth along with citizenship by descent and naturalised citizenship. This meant any child born within a country’s borders or territory was automatically granted citizenship in the country if the person did not have other citizenship. But, the government did not include that provision in the constitution, which means the children of those who got their citizenship by birth have not been able to get their citizenship.

Addressing this, the proposed amendment to the citizenship law aims to give citizenship by descent to those born to parents with citizenship born to citizens by birth. This proposal seems to have been accepted by all major political parties.

2. Citizenship with the mother’s name

Sketch for representation: Many Nepalis have been deprived of citizenship due to problems in the citizenship law.
Sketch for representation: Many Nepalis have been deprived of citizenship due to problems in the citizenship law.

The constitution states that the government can hand out citizenship to anyone with their mother’s name. But, since the government has not made corresponding changes to the citizenship law, this constitutional provision has not been implemented yet.

The proposed amended has addressed this too. Once the law is in effect, those who have not been able to get their citizenship through their mother will also be given citizenship by descent if he/she is living in Nepal. This even goes for people who do not know who their fathers are.

For this, the mother has to self-declare that the father does not exist. But, if the declaration is false, the government will take action against as per law.

3. Citizenship to NRNs

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Non-resident Nepalis around the world had been repeatedly telling the government that they believe in the ‘once a Nepali, always a Nepali’ slogan. Listening to them, the government has tried to address this in the amendment.

Accordingly, a different type of citizenship would be given to them. The citizenship will give them economic, social and cultural rights. But, these people would not have any political rights, meaning these people cannot vote, contest an election and get appointed in public posts.

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