‘Gender-insensitive’ Prachanda draws flak from CA members

Kathmandu, October 24:

Constituent Assembly members today came down heavily on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, who also looks after the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCS), for not bothering to visit the ministry even once after assuming the office.

They accused the Maoist-led government of totally ignoring issues facing women.

Uma Adhikari Regmi, a CA member from the Nepali Congress, told this daily, “The failure on the part of the Maoist-led government to appoint a minister for the MoWCS proves that the government is not serious about addressing women’s issues.”

She said the non-appointment of the minister had put agendas of women on the backburner.

“Thanks to the lack of the minister, there is no one to represent about 50 per cent of women of the country. We are not sure whether the government will work in line with suggestions that we have forwarded to the MoWSC.”

She said the PM had not bothered to attend most of the discussions that dwelt on women’s issues.

“The PM was absent when the Constituent Assembly was discussing budgetary allocation for women, children and social issues.”

The CA member said the PM would be unable to take concrete steps to address women’s issues as he has not taken part in related discussions. “I am sure that this government will not act in line with our suggestions that are aimed at addressing women’s woes.”

She said the PM’s act of not attending the discussion on women’s issues had brought to light the patriarchal mentality he is beset with.

“In the lack of minister, the MoWSC will be rudderless,” echoed Sapana Pradhan Malla, a

women’s rights lawyer and CA member.

“As the PM is busy dealing with other national issues, we hardly get the opportunity to discuss women’s issues with him. The PM has expressed solidarity with the women’s cause, but he has attached greater importance to international affairs and political affair.”

The ministry has failed to introduce new rules and regulations, she said.

Urmila Aryal, a former minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, and central committee member of the CPN-UML, said the appointment of the minister will make a great difference.

The minister can guide employees and enable them to achieve the ministry’s goals, she said.

She added that a draft bill on domestic violence had been prepared during her tenure. “The bill is in the parliament. Due to the non-appointment of the minister concerned, the bill is still awaiting the parliament’s approval.”

However, Punya Prasad Neupane, secretary of the MoWCS, termed the opinion expressed by women “one-sided”. “It is better to work under the PM,” he said, conceding that the PM was busy dealing with other national issues.

The MoWCS secretary conceded that the PM had not visited the ministry even once.

“But I have been updating him about the issues of women. I have told him that absence of the minister has not hampered day-to-day activities of the ministry. “It will be easier for the ministry to handle women’s issues if there is a minister to handle the ministry,” Neupane said.