Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance) welcomes the step taken by the Nepali Government on August 8 to register a bill in Parliament to amend the Nepal Citizenship Act 2006. It believes that the longstanding problems faced by Nepali citizens in acquiring citizenship would be addressed by the smooth implementation of this law. The people of Nepal will now be able to get citizenship certificates in an easy and fair way. However, THRD Alliance also raises serious concerns relating to certain discriminatory provisions in the bill and urges the government as well as the concerned stakeholders to amend the bill after a wider consultation with stakeholders.


The government promulgated the Constitution of Nepal on September 20, 2015 but some of the provisions relating to citizenship were contradicted by the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2006 and the constitution mentioned that such issues will be addressed through a Federal Law on citizenship. As a result the government came up with amendment bills nearly three years after the promulgation of the constitution.

Article 11 (3) of the constitution stipulated that a child both of whose parents are citizens of Nepal, who has obtained Nepali citizenship by birth prior to the promulgation of the 2015 Constitution shall, upon attaining majority, acquire Nepali citizenship by descent. However, the government had yet to enact the federal law and, in its absence, the Chief District Officers persistently denied the provision of citizenship to such children.

Similarly, article 11 (5) of the constitution mentioned that a person who is born in Nepal to a woman who is a citizen of Nepal and has resided in Nepal but whose father is not traced shall be provided with the citizenship of Nepal by descent.

Provided that his or her father is held to be a foreign citizen, the citizenship of such person shall be converted into naturalized citizenship, as provided for in the Federal law.

Likewise, article 11 (6) of the constitution stipulated that a foreign woman who has a matrimonial relationship with a citizen of Nepal may, if she so wishes, acquire naturalized Nepali citizenship as provided for in the Federal law.

So, the government came up with the amendment bills to address issues related to the citizenship.

Provisions proposed in the bill

Due to the lack of enactment of federal law relating to citizenship as stated in the constitution, children of citizens by birth have been forced to stay as stateless and enjoy fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. Chief District Officers have been refusing to provide citizenship to the children of citizens by birth citing that the government is yet to enact laws. If the amendment bill is enacted, it will relieve a great many young people who have been waiting for citizenship for a number of years. The earlier Citizenship Act of 2006 had failed to address such issues.

Likewise, the bill proposes that a child born to a Nepali mother whose father is unknown will be entitled to citizenship by descent. However, a clause in the bill states that the citizenship by descent of such a child will be converted to naturalized citizenship if it is found that his/her father is a foreign national and the child has not obtained citizenship of the foreign country on the basis of his/her father’s nationality.

The clause will be problematic for young Madhesi who have been living in such circumstances due to matrimonial bond among the people of Nepal and India due to open border.

THRD Alliance believes that this provision will affect thousands of young Madhesi who have been living in Nepal with Nepali mothers. In fact, people with naturalized citizenship will not be eligible for eight government executive posts[1].

THRD Alliance is also concerned by another clause in the bill, stating that an applicant seeking citizenship on the basis of her/his mother’s nationality will have to submit an affidavit stating that s/he does not know who her/his father is. If the applicant does not submit this affidavit, then his/her mother will have to submit an affidavit saying she does not know the identity of her child’s father. The provision will be problematic for those who born due avoidable circumstances.

If an Indian man returns to India over the open border, having lived in Nepal with a Nepali wife, and does not return, then the children of that marriage will be deprived of Nepali citizenship, because such children have to submit certificates proving that they did not obtain the citizenship of their father’s country. Similarly, children of widow, child born due to love affairs and living together relations will also suffer if the man separated.

Another flaw in the bill is that the government does not treat sons and daughters equally. A Nepali man married to a foreign woman can confer Nepali nationality to his children but a Nepali woman married to foreign man cannot confer Nepali nationality to her children. This is against constitutional norms that guarantee rights of gender equality.

Likewise, the amendment bill stipulates that a person entitled to Nepali citizenship by descent can obtain that citizenship on the basis of either the mother or the father’s nationality, and he/she can supply either the mother or father’s details (such as addresses) in the citizenship application. However, if the child applies on the basis of his/her mother’s nationality, he/she would be required also to prove his/her father’s citizenship.

The bill proposes that a foreign woman marrying a Nepali man needs to submit certificates proving that she is no longer citizen of her original country after six months. If she is unable to submit such certificates then her citizenship will be withdrawn. Providing such certificates may take longer than six months due to country-specific rules and regulations or other technical reasons, and so THRDA would urge the government to increase this time period so as to allow ample time for the person to provide an appropriate reason for his/her failure to produce such certification within a stipulated time.

Similarly, a Nepali woman married to a foreigner needs to submit a certificate proving that she has not acquired citizenship of her husband’s country, which could be problematic as well. Such a woman married to a foreigner living in Nepal, having never travelled to the country of her husband, may find it difficult to receive certification that she has not received citizenship certificate of that particular country.


Although the formation of the bill addressing the citizenship problem is a welcome step on the part of the government of Nepal, THRDA urges the government to seek wider consultation and amend the bill, so as to comply with international human rights principles and standards. The citizenship law must not discriminate on the basis of sex, religion, caste or any other reason.

[1] Article 289 (1) of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 (Special provision relating to citizenship of officials)