Nepali citizenship …. finally

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.

Deepti Gurung with her daugther Neha, speaking on March 8, 2017 – International Women’s Day in Kathmandu. Photo credit My Republica

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.

Deepti Gurung and her supporters staged a sleep-in protest at Baneshwor, Kathamndu in August 2015. The Nepal Police response seems a tad excessive. Photo credit Kathmandu Post

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.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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3 Responses to Nepali citizenship …. finally

  1. radchef says:

    Monumental for this incredible Mother and daughters and all Nepalese women. I’m so happy for them Kate :)))))

  2. Thank goodness common sense and the right decision was made. How frightening it would be to not have citizenship anywhere. Glad that it is sorted now. Most of us take this for granted.

    • Kate Coffey says:

      We sure do take our rights and freedoms for granted. This was a very long time coming and despite the legal support, I hear it is still somewhat challenging to get CDOs to comply with the ruling.

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