Contesting Bodies in the Constitutional Debate About Citizenship in Nepal

  • Kumud Rana
Part of the Gender, Development and Social Change book series (GDSC)


The idea of citizens as rights-bearing bodies continues to be an important political tool for women through which to claim space as legitimate actors who have the right to equality under the law. However, in this process of seeking legitimacy from the state, women’s bodies continue to be entangled between the normalizing and essentializing forces of nationalism which positions them as second-class citizens. Taking the case of a constitutional debate over the right of Nepali mothers to pass on citizenship to their children irrespective of the nationality of the father, this chapter explores how the female body continues to be normalised as a mere biological reproducer of the nation, without equal rights as citizens of that nation. More importantly, the chapter further shows how women’s resistance to such discrimination might rely on the same masculine and exclusionary interpretations of nationalism. The chapter draws from in-depth interviews with key constituent assembly members writing a new constitution for Nepal after the dissolution of monarchy in 2008. The chapter argues how a neoliberal understanding of citizenship goes hand in hand with the neoliberal interpretation of women’s empowerment, which often overlooks the importance of how intersections of different identities affect the lived experiences of different groups of women. In the case of Nepal, this interpretation of citizenship has overlooked intersecting discriminations based on caste, ethnicity and sexual orientation, thus homogenizing the category of “Nepali women” and dictating what a unified agenda for the Nepali women’s movement ought to be. While it is true that the embodied experience of the female body often becomes an entry point for women’s political engagement, the chapter highlights the limitations this might pose. It shows how bodies are often inscribed by dominant political and sociocultural structures in such a way that within the biopolitics of national sovereignty, some (female) bodies might matter more than others


Single Mother National Sovereignty Naturalize Citizenship Equal Citizenship Woman Leader 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kumud Rana
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlasgowGlasgowUK

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