Discrimination against women continues

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KATHMANDU, MARCH 8

Nepal has made some major progress in ensuring women’s rights, particularly right to equality, but in practice, women continue to face discrimination.

Rights activists say patriarchy is at the root of women’s suffering and this needs to be dismantled to ensure women’s rights both in law and practice.

 

Executive Director of Forum for Women, Law and Development Sabin Shrestha says discrimination in citizenship laws is the biggest obstacle.

A Nepali man marrying a foreign woman can transmit Nepali nationality to his children, but a Nepali woman marrying a foreign man cannot transmit Nepali nationality to her children, Shrestha said.

The government has enacted new laws such as reproductive health right act, anti-human trafficking act and reservation for women in political bodies, but these laws are not enough to enable women to enjoy their rights.

Existing laws stipulate that the parties should field women candidates for either chief or deputy chief of local levels and for speaker or deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies, but parties often grant tickets to women only for second positions, such as deputy chief or deputy speaker, Shrestha argued. He said out of 753 chiefs of local levels only 18 chiefs (less than three per cent) were women. In 293 municipalities, only seven mayors are women.

In all provincial assemblies, deputy speakers are women.

Shrestha said the parties met the 33 per cent women reservation quota in their central committees, but in the top body of office bearers, there was no reservation for women.

Nepali Congress has just one woman among its office bearers.

Rights activist Rita Sah said despite the constitution guaranteeing citizenship rights on the basis of mother’s nationality, women married to foreign nationals had not been able to pass on Nepali nationality to their children. She said the constitution established women’s equal right in lineage and share of property, but they had not been able to enjoy equal rights.

“Out of 753 chiefs of local levels, more than 95 per cent are men. This means women do not have executive power in most local levels,” Sah said and added that patriarchy was at the core of discrimination against women. “It is not that there is no law against domestic violence, violence against women and caste discrimination, yet incidents of violence against women are on the rise,” she said and added that all structures of society projected women as second-class citizens. “Since the government started providing discount for buying property in females’ names, some women have land property in their names, but still, they cannot enjoy their property. How can women contest elections if they lack access to family resources?” Sah wondered.

Former member of the National Human Rights Commission Advocate Mohna Ansari said gender discrimination in citizenship rights was a major hurdle. “The prevailing laws do not grant power to women on par with men.

When women don’t have legal identity, they are vulnerable to exploitation,” Ansari said. She said the constitution intended to ensure social justice and transformation through affirmative action and reservations, but political leaders took advantage of this. “We see influential leaders nominating female members of their own families. Women from marginalised groups often fail to win parties’ nomination,” she argued.

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