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Deena and Charulatha – Nepal

A mother escapes an extremely violent and abusive relationship, but with no proof of paternity, her daughter is repeatedly denied approval for citizenship paperwork, ultimately leading them to take their case to the highest court in the land. Nepali law only allows Nepali mothers to pass citizenship to children born in the country if the father is unknown. 

Deena is the 18 year old daughter of Charulatha.  Deena has been denied a citizenship certificate through her mother, while Charulatha has been deprived of transferring Nepali citizenship to her daughter.

When Charulatha was 3 months pregnant with Deena, her partner physically abused her and tried to burn Charulatha and their unborn child alive by locking them up in a room, but they survived. Charulatha never saw her abusive partner again after escaping from the fire. She and Deena started living with Charulatha’s father and mother. Charulatha went abroad for work for 11 years and then came back to Nepal. 

When Deena turned 18, she went to the Ward Office for the recommendation in order to apply for her citizenship certificate. She was told that she cannot acquire the citizenship certificate if she doesn’t have a birth registration certificate. After that, her mother applied for birth registration on her behalf, but the authorities replied saying that Deena cannot register the birth through her maternal family, and hence refused to provide recommendation for her citizenship certificate. The authorities noted that there is no law allowing children to acquire legal identity through their mother, nor any law allowing a mother to transfer her nationality to her children. ​​However later, the Mayor provided Deena with a birth verification recommendation. Yet, the authorities kept asking for legal identity documents for Deena’s father as well as his recommendation for Deena’s application.

Deena tried applying for citizenship two more times, once by trying to obtain a recommendation from the Ward Office for citizenship certificate by filling out another type of form, and again by using her mother’s identity and address. However, she was flatly refused both times, leaving Deena stateless and both her and her mother feeling like they were in an abyss. The authorities refused to grant the application based on her mother’s details and asked for proof of paternity and her father’s Nepali citizenship. 

After so many unsuccessful attempts to obtain citizenship for Deena, they finally filed a petition on January 29, 2022 at the Supreme Court of Nepal demanding to acquire the citizenship of descent through her mother. The Supreme Court has ordered the priority hearing of the case, and Deena is hopeful for a positive decision due to the Constitutional provisions which provide for equality in passing citizenship to children, despite contradictory discriminatory nationality provisions continuing to exist.

Learn more about discrimination in nationality law in our report, The State We’re In: Ending Sexism In Nationality Laws – 2022 Edition – Update For A Disrupted World.