Nepal is one of 27 countries which discriminates against women in their ability to pass on nationality to their children on an equal basis with men. Such laws have devastating impacts on families affected who are often unable to access education, health services, jobs and their freedom of movement is severely restricted. In 2014 the Equal Rights Trust documented the impact of Nepal's law on women and their children for its thematic report on the issue, this research led us to Deepti Gurung, a Nepalese citizen, activist, and mother of two daughters.
No Place to Belong
Frankly speaking…our leaders are completely blacked out on 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
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.
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 a five years course so I am hoping that in this time we will fight, struggle, and we will do something about it. But if the law doesn’t change, she will not succeed. So basically she is not a human being in this country anymore.
And I have a question for the government: if a stateless person like my daughter, if she commits crime, how are you going to do a lawsuit against that person, how are you going to tell who 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 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 she doesn’t have a passport.
Inside of Nepal my daughters don’t have any problems travelling. But outside of Nepal, to India, 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 to a part of India and anything goes wrong they cannot seek help from the embassy or the government because they are not recognised as citizens.
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 but that is not true. Women should have a black citizenship card.
We feel like prisoners. Frankly speaking we do not exist, we are air, we are space, we are nothing.
- Visit the country pages of Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar and Nepal to find out more on our work to end gender discriminatory nationality laws.
- To download our report on the impact of such laws in these countries click here.