Deept Gurung, a Nepalese citizen, activist, and mother of two daughters was abandoned by her previous two husbands. Nepal is one of the 27 countries around the world today which discriminates against women in their ability to pass on their nationality onto their children on an equal basis with men. This has meant Deepti's two daughters have been left stateless - a situation which encounters continual obstacles to living a normal life; with a lack of access to health, education, land inheritence, official documentation, as well as bringing an underlying sense of unbelonging and shame. Below Deepti speaks more extensively on the barriers her and her daughters face.
What we do on this issue
The Equal Rights Trust, together with partners including UNHCR, Equality Now, Women’s Refugee Commission and others is part of the Global Campaign for Equal Nationality Rights – a campaign which brings each comparative advantage of its members to eliminate gender discrimination in nationality laws.
Testimonies such as Deepti’s will be published in a forthcoming Equal Rights Trust report which focuses on both countries which have reformed their nationality laws, and those which have yet to. The report will provides an analysis on the extent and consequences of nationality laws discriminating against women in these countries, as well as assessing what the best methods for achieving effective reform are.
No place to belong
Frankly speaking…our leaders are completely blacked out in this matter. If a man marries any foreign woman she will immediately get citizenship, including her children, and the whole problem is solved. But if a woman marries a foreign national then she is not entitled to this. In many cases (the mothers) have been even threatened that they will be forced to give up their citizenship as well, which they have already acquired from their father.
I raised my children on my own and I fulfilled my promise to my kids, I am very, very happy about that. But today when I look back...because looking at my children, the way they are suffering, I wish I could have taken a different decision so that my children would not have to face this problem.
There was a time when my daughters asked me, “Mum why is it difficult, what is wrong with this, we are good students, I am studying good, we are good daughters, we have not done anything wrong, why are we facing this?”
Whenever I talk to people I say we are still not freed yet, we are still not liberated. We will be liberated in the true sense, when our country accepts our identity as an individual, that is the only time we can claim that we have a real freedom…My parents were the one who served this country, and now their daughters, and my daughters, the situation we are facing, we are being questioned whether we are even human beings, forget about being citizens. It definitely hurts, it is very, very emotional for us.
The challenges my daughters face
No official records
My children don’t have a single document, the only thing they have got to date is their school certificates. They do not have any record of their birth.
Now that my daughter is grown up, she cannot open a bank account because she doesn’t have citizenship, she cannot have a driving license so she can never own a vehicle of her own. She cannot have any certificates for education. She cannot have that.
If I earn something as property as a mother and I want to give it to my daughter she cannot have it...Even if I want to earn money and buy a piece of land, why would I do that, for whom, because I am not able to pass that land to my children.
Getting a Degree
My eldest daughter is planning to join the law faculty…But even to get admission into any college you need to have citizenship. It is five years course so in between five years course I am hoping that we will fight, struggle, we will do something about it. If the law doesn’t change she will not get. So basically she is not a human being in this country anymore.
And I have a question to the government: a stateless person like my daughter if she commits crime how are you going to do a lawsuit against that person, who are you going to tell that person is? Where does that person belong to? At that time what are you going to do? They will still find a way to do, they will find a way to claim that person is from x place. But yet the person will have no right, tomorrow, if she is dying in hospital and the person has to, if she has to be treated abroad, suppose, my daughter will not be able to go abroad and save her own life because she doesn’t have citizenship and a passport.
Travel outside of Nepal
Inside of Nepal my daughters don’t have any problems travelling. But outside of Nepal, to India because the national identity is the citizenship, if they have to take air flight you need to produce a passport or your citizenship. If you travel by road you do not have to produce your passport but they do need to show their national ID. Even if they don’t have to show it, if they are travelling part of India and anything goes wrong they cannot seek help from embassy or the government because they are not recognised as a citizen.
You should have a different colour citizenship card for a man and a woman. They have the same card for man and woman that gives the false hope that everyone has equal right to citizenship that is not true. They should have black citizenship
We feel like prisoners. Frankly speaking we do not exist, we are air, we are space, we are nothing.