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'Biased' winds of change in Nepal

Nepal is in a process of change. But while most of it since end of the civil war has been positive, some proposed changes have drawn flak. Utpal Parashar reports.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2011 01:10 IST
Utpal Parashar

Nepal is in a process of change. But while most of it since end of the civil war has been positive, some proposed changes have drawn flak.

Take for example the proposed citizenship rules in the new constitution that are discriminatory towards women.

A foreigner marrying a Nepali man can become a naturalized citizen immediately on submitting proof of having rescinded the citizenship of her country of birth. But foreigners marrying Nepali women will have to wait for 15 years in order to be eligible to apply for naturalized citizenship.

Likewise children of Nepali men married to foreigners can become citizens by descent, but children born to Nepali women married to foreigners are granted naturalized citizenship.

In India, anyone married to an Indian citizen, irrespective of gender, can apply for naturalized citizenship after 5 years of constant stay in the country. The time limit for the same is 3 years in US. Activists and some lawmakers are also worried about discriminatory clauses in the draft civil laws that propose to replace the century-old Muluki Ain. Despite the Supreme Court directing the government to formulate laws allowing same-sex marriages, the draft civil code mentions only about marriage between man and woman.

"Besides being discriminatory towards certain sections, many chapters are against international human rights treaties that Nepal has signed," said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal's first openly gay lawmaker.

Likewise the draft criminal laws also have several clauses that are non inclusive about rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered and citizens with certain disabilities and diseases. "Rather than simply putting the principal age of consent and consensus between adults for indulging in sexual behavior, the law tries to define 'natural and unnatural sex' in a vague way," said Pant.