The Human Rights Watch has said Nepal’s new constitution has left out sections of the population in the lurch.
In its annual report released on Tuesday, the New York based rights organisation has pointed out the constitution has not addressed the issue of statelessness and citizenship issue of the children born to a Nepali mother and foreign father.
According to a study titled “Acquisition of citizenship certificates in Nepal: Estimation and projection”, conducted by Forum for Women Law and Development, an NGO, an estimated 4.6 million people above 16 years of age have no citizenship certificate.
The new constitutional provision makes it difficult for a single parent to pass on citizenship to their children. The law requires a woman to prove that the whereabouts of her husband is unknown to pass on citizenship to her child, while the provision is silent on the case of single male parent.
“Nepal has had years to discuss and prepare a constitution which would address the expectations of all its communities, including its sizeable stateless population,” said HRW Asian Director Brad Adams. “Instead, the main political parties simply used the distraction of the humanitarian crisis to pass a constitution which has ended up deeply hurting many of its citizens and deepened the humanitarian crisis.”
The report has noted equal protection and affirmative action as positive aspects of the constitution. It has also appreciated the provisions that recognise the right to third gender identity, many ethnic groups.
However, the report has pointed out the death of over 50 people during the protracted protests over some provision of the constitution.
The protests halted the flow of essential goods and medicines into the country, which affected the rescue and relief efforts following devastating earthquakes in April and May. “Two back-to-back earthquakes in Nepal killed or injured tens of thousands and left millions displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance,” the rights body said in a statement. “In spite of many promises, the government remained unable to establish a reconstruction authority to disburse funds and rehabilitation supplies.”
The government has set up the National Reconstruction Authority in December, which has started works. However, the earthquake survivors have not been able to benefit much from the government relief programmes.