On International Women’s Day, you may remember me telling you the story of a mother and her two daughters and their fight for Nepali citizenship. Let me remind you.
Nepali born Deepti Gurung raised her two Nepali-born daughters – Nikita and Neha – on her own for many years, without their foreign-born father’s support. When she went to get her daughter’s citizenship papers in order, she was shocked to find out that her daughters were not considered Nepali citizens. You see, Nepal is a patriarchal society that in the past, only allowed Nepali citizenship to be afforded to children through their father, never through their mother.
In 2011, the Forum for Women, Law and Development won a landmark verdict from Nepal’s Supreme Court where the court granted Nepali citizenship to a young Nepali-born girl whose father could not be identified yet whose mother was Nepali.
Despite this decision, precedence was not set for similar cases such as those of Nikita and Neha’s, primarily because bureaucrats in the Chief District Offices (CDOs) still believe and practice a patriarchal society. In their minds, males are the dominant ones in society, no matter what the law says. This is blatant discrimination against women.
This left Deepti Gurung’s two daughters Nikita and Neha stateless. Unable to secure Nepali citizenship, thus preventing them from doing what should be simple things in life.
Things like opening their own bank account, attending college, and to bigger things like being allowed to vote, not qualifying for a passport.
Things you and I take for granted.
For years now, Deepti Gurung and her supporters have been fighting the good fight, seeking a decision from the Supreme Court that allows Nepali citizenship to be passed on through the Nepali mother, without reference to the father.
This very decision came down from the Supreme Court on Tuesday, making it an historic judgement that paves the way for Nikita and Neha, along with what is estimated to be 4 million others, to secure Nepali citizenship through their mothers. Deepti’s young daughters can now get on with their lives.
And more importantly, this verdict ensures bureaucrats in the Chief District Offices (CDOs) comply with this judgement.
A huge win for the women in Nepal as this ingrained prejudice against women is slowly eroded.
Congratulations to all involved.