July Analysis: Gender and Social Inclusion

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The month of July saw the amendment to Citizenship Act 2006, allowing thousands of Nepali individuals to acquire Citizenship by Descent. The bill is a step forward, however, it is a far cry from addressing inequality. The constitution still pertains contradictory and discriminatory provisions that require amendment. This month also saw a proposal to the extension to statutory limitations on rape, which is a positive step towards granting justice to victims. The government’s commitment to achieving Transitional Justice seems strong albeit slow. The new bill, when implemented, will finally bring justice to those still awaiting after ten-year long insurgency.

Timeline of Major Events

DateTimeline
8th JulyHome Minister Bal Krishna Khand submitted a proposal to withdraw the pending citizenship amendment bill.
8th JulyLawmakers proposed extension to the contentious statute of limitations on rape – to allow adults, who are subjected to rape, to be able to file a lawsuit within two years of the incident and for minors to be able to file a case within three years of the victims turning 18
15th JulyThe government registered a bill at the parliament to revise the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappeared, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014
21st JulyRights organizations call for remedying Transitional Justice Law Amendment Bills
22nd JulyAmid reservations   from   the   main   opposition,   CPN-UML,   the   House   of Representatives endorsed a bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 2006 with a majority vote

The Arduous Road to Equal citizenship

President Bidya Devi Bhandari. Photo RSS.

On 22nd July, the House of Representatives endorsed a bill to amend the Citizenship Act, 2006. Once the amendment is passed by the Upper House, the bill will allow thousands of citizens to acquire Citizenship by Descent if their parents have Citizenship by Birth or if they are born to Nepali mothers whose fathers cannot be traced. However, given the condition that the father is identified, and the mother’s claim is found to be false, she will be liable for action. Citizens will be entitled to a Naturalized Citizenship if they are born to a Nepali mother and a foreign father and domiciled in Nepal.

The bill also allows Non-Resident Nepalis to acquire citizenship, however, they will not be able to enjoy political and administrative rights. A different type of citizenship will be granted which will allow them to enjoy economic, social and cultural rights, however they would not be able to vote, contest an election and get appointed for public posts.

The bill has retained the existing provisions in the Act regarding marital naturalization. Thus, foreign women married to Nepali men can acquire naturalized citizenship soon as she begins the process to renounce her citizenship of the country of origin. Similar provision does not apply for foreign men married to Nepali women. Foreign men married to Nepali women will have to abide by the same provisions applied to foreigners applying for naturalization. That is, they are only eligible if they have any contribution in science, philosophy, arts, literature, world peace, human welfare, industrialization, economic or social sectors and have lived for 15 years continuously in Nepal, renounced the citizenship of their country of origin, and are able to speak Nepali or other languages spoken in Nepal.

Earlier on July 8, under the proposal of Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, the House of Representative had withdrawn the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill proposed on August 7, 2018.

Experts believe the bill does justice to thousands of citizens wanting to acquire citizenship, however, it also brings into attention discriminatory and contradictory provisions in the constitution itself. The pivotal factor to render a child Citizenship by Descent or Naturalized is their father. The constitution seems to distrust women and thereby denies their right to provide citizenship to their children in their name. Furthermore, regarding the marital naturalization, the unequal terms for foreign men and women reflect the patriarchal basis that has gone into formulating the Act.

Proposed Amendment to Rape & Rights Laws

On May 18, an Instagram make-up influencer, Sushmita Regmi released a series of videos accusing pageant organizer, Manoj Pande of raping her for months when she was just 16 years old a minor. Series of protest broke inside and outside the valley, supporting Sushmita and demanding extension to the statute of limitations on rape which required rape-survivors to make their plea within a year of the date of incident.

On July 8, the Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee proposed the House of Representatives to extend the statute of limitations on rape. According to Section 292(2) of the National Penal Code, a plaintiff can file a complaint only within a year from the date of the incident. The proposal is for allowing adults who are subjected to rape to be able to file a lawsuit within two years of the incident; and likewise for minors to file the case within three years of the victims turning 18. Additionally, for people with disabilities and senior citizens, the victims may file a complaint within three years of the incident.

Sushmita’s videos and the subsequent parliamentary hearings brought about much knowledge on statutory limitations and rape laws. If passed, the proposed amendment may not be able to bring justice to Sushmita, but will nevertheless bring a fairer justice mechanism for future.

The Forgotten Trail of the Transitional Justice

On July 15, the government registered a bill at the parliament to revise the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappeared, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014, seven years after the Supreme Court’s directives for its amendment. According to the court’s verdict on February 2015, the bill listed out several inestimable cases of serious human rights violations, for example, rape, enforced disappearances and inhumane torture. The bill opens provisions to start prosecution of cases of serious human rights violations at the Attorney General’s Office. A special court is to be arranged composing of three judges from high courts who will take decisions in cases of serious human rights violations.

Thirty-nine various human rights organization, including Accountability Watch Committee (AWC), Amnesty International Nepal and Blue Diamond Society-Nepal, among others, urged the government to amend the ‘lapses’ in the Bill for the Amendment of the Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2071.

They have in particular objection with two of the following laws:

  • Section 2(5) categorizes violations to make it possible that perpetrators of gross violations of human rights, crimes against humanity and war crimes, could be granted amnesties;
  • Section 29 (5) provides that verdicts of the Special Court which will try transitional justice cases cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, in violation of international fair trial guarantees.

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