By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Activists urged Nepal on Wednesday to submit a report to the United Nations on how it has fared in tackling gender discrimination, hoping it will shed light on a new citizenship policy they say penalizes many women.
Tucked between China and India, Nepal in 1991 signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is seen by experts as an international bill of rights for women.
As part of the CEDAW, member states must submit a progress report every four years. But the Himalayan nation has failed to send its latest report, which was due in June last year, to the Geneva-based CEDAW committee.
Activists hope to glean information from the report on a newly enacted policy that puts limits on women passing on their citizenship to their children.
"Nepali women only have a partial or conditional right to pass citizenship to their children under the new constitution. But this is not so with men," said Sabin Shrestha, executive director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development, a non-profit group in Kathmandu.
"This contradicts Article 9 of CEDAW which calls for equal rights with respect to citizenship," Shrestha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The constitution, passed in September last year, says if a Nepali woman is married to a foreign man, their children cannot have Nepali citizenship. Whereas if the father is Nepali, his children can be Nepali, regardless of the wife's nationality.
Without citizenship, Nepalis cannot get identity cards which are needed for everything from college admissions and job applications to opening a bank account.
A government official said the CEDAW report was delayed because the authorities were overstretched after major earthquakes in April and May last year which devastated infrastructure and killed more than 9,000 people.
"It is now awaiting the cabinet approval and will be submitted to the CEDAW committee soon," Radhika Aryal, a senior official at Nepal's ministry for women and children, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Nepal has increasingly moved toward ending discrimination against women since it emerged from a decade-long civil war in 2006 and abolished the feudal monarchy two years later.
But deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes persist preventing women from the same access to education, health and jobs as men, human rights groups say.
Nepal was ranked 108 out of 155 countries in the U.N.'s 2015 Gender Inequality Index which measures disparities in three main areas -- reproductive health, empowerment and economic status.
Th country's first post-monarchical constitution calls for "proportional inclusion" of women in all government departments and also equal property rights to be given to daughters.
It also states the president and vice-president must not be the same gender or ethnic group and that political parties must ensure that one third of female candidates be elected to parliament directly or through proportional representation.
The president, who is a ceremonial head of state, the chief justice and the parliament speaker are women, which officials say are all positive signs in country's traditionally male-dominated legislature and judiciary.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma. Editing by Nita Bhalla and Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)