About 5000 people from diverse walks of life participated in a rally in the capital Tuesday to press for gender equality in the new constitution. Voicing their demands for ‘citizenship through mother,’ more representation of women at different levels of the state and inclusion of at least one female member in each constitutional body, the rally that began from Babar Mahal convened at Baneshwar chowk demanding an end to discriminatory provisions in the draft constitution.
Even though the draft constitution has stated that the country treats every citizen equally, citizenship provision has been clearly discriminatory. There are different provisions for a male citizen and a female citizen of the country regarding their marriage with foreigners, which women rights activists have termed as a historical blunder and a shocking decision by the political parties that needs to be corrected by the time the country gets a new constitution.
“The citizenship provision is going to be problematic if amendments are not made,” said Sushila Shakya, one of the participants in the rally. “The state needs to accept independent identity of both males and females. Citizenship should be given to children either through mother or father. Or else, many children are going to be stateless in their own country,” added Shakya, who is the president of Lakasa Nepal, an NGO working for the cause of ethnic and marginalized communities.
According to advocate Subin Lal Mulmi, the draft is in favor of men although it allows citizenship to children through either mother or father, because, the sub clause does not require the father to produce wife’s details unlike in the case of women who cannot independently obtain citizenship for their children. “Unlike for men, women have to produce details of children’s father to get citizenship for them,” he said.
Mulmi stressed that the draft constitution has categorized single mothers in three groups – those who have been married to foreigners, who have no details of their husbands and those who are married to Nepali men. “Women have to clarify their category and that is going to be problematic, basically for women who cannot produce their husbands’ documents,” he added.
Similarly, another advocate and former CA member Sapana Malla Pradhan said during the rally that the government is carrying out discussions in order to address the problems regarding the citizenship provision.
“The new draft constitution has curtailed the rights previously assured by the interim constitution. We are hopeful that changes would be made for the sake of equality,” she said.
Meanwhile, Shakya questioned, “What will happen to the children who lost their fathers during conflict or who are growing up without their father’s support or don’t have their details?”
“Women with foreign husbands cannot provide citizenship to their children anymore if the draft is not amended. The state is treating us as second-class citizen, we cannot tolerate it,” she added.
Roshan Thapa from Chhampi VDC, Lalitpur had come to the rally with about 100 locals to show their solidarity for the cause. Regarding the issue, he said, “I strongly support equal rights for every citizen of the nation in all the sectors from citizenship, property rights, to 50% women representation in decision-making level.”
Another gender activist Lalita Shrestha, a BSc nursing student from Kavre, said that gender equality should be ensured in all state mechanisms. “They cannot undermine fifty percent of the population. Nor is it a good idea to overlook their identity,” she said, while marching in the rally.