EDITORIAL: Gender imbalance

The major political parties have given importance to male candidates for reasons, or rationale, beyond anybody’s comprehension

Various political parties and independents filed nominations for the parliamentary and provincial First-Past-the-Post (FPtP) elections in 32 hilly and mountainous districts in the respective district election offices. Elections will be held on November 26 under the first phase for the 37 seats of the House of Representatives (HoR) and 74 seats for provincial assemblies across six provinces. The second phase of election will elect the rest — 128 FPtP seats for HoR and 256 FPtP seats for the provincial assemblies – on December 7. Filing of nominations in the 32 districts went peacefully with much fan-fare along with traditional musical bands and parties’ election symbols. Following the nominations the chief election officers of the concerned districts published the list of candidates contesting the parliamentary and provincial elections in the evening which will be instrumental to fully implement the new constitution adopted on September 20, 2015. The date for lodging complaints against any candidates was set during the office hours on Monday. After scrutinizing the complaints, the election office will publish the names of candidates on Tuesday. According to the schedule, the candidates can withdraw their names on Tuesday itself. The candidates will be given the election symbol after publishing the final names of the candidates on the same day.

The Election Commission has said that the election code of conduct came into effect after the candidates filed their nominations. There are a total of 3,228,879 eligible voters in the 32 districts and updated voters rolls have already been dispatched to the respective districts. One can vote only after producing a voter identity card issued by the EC. The EC has already printed 11.2 million ballot papers for the proportional representation system. A total of 17.4 million ballot papers will be required to conduct the PR election across the country. As the EC has already held local level elections in all provinces there will be no confusion about how to cast votes under the FPtP and PR. A voter is required to cast two votes — one for FPtP candidate for HoR and the other for FPtP candidate for the provincial assembly on a single ballot paper separated by a bold line and, the other two votes — one for PR for HoR and the other for PR for the provincial assembly.

While it is encouraging to note is that the parliamentary and provincial elections are being held on the dates fixed by the government in consultation with the EC, there are some shortcomings about gender balance and caste representation, especially on the FPtP seats for both the HoR and provincial assemblies. Under FPtP, the major political parties have fielded only three women candidates for HoR and six for FPtP for the provincial assemblies. The major political parties have given importance to male candidates for reasons, or rationale, beyond anybody’s comprehension. This should change, and political parties are advised to field more women candidates under FPtP for the second phase elections due on December 7.  Women have fought alongside men, and have been in the forefront of major political struggles in Nepal. Taking pro-active measures to create an enabling environment to increase women’s participation in the mainstream politics will go a long way in empowering the women. The constitutional provision has it that one-third of the total representation in parliament and provincial assemblies should be women. It shows that the political parties need to work hard for women’s representation in politics.

Herbal medicines

The lack of raw materials is adversely affecting the production of herbal medicines. According to the Singadurbar Vaidyakhana Development Committee, this had led to a decline of the manufacturing of these medicines. A few years ago this oldest government owned ayurvedic medicine manufacturer was producing 200 types of such products. But now it is manufacturing only 60 types of them. Although there is high demand for some of such medicines it has not been able to meet it mainly due to the lack of quality raw materials. About 77 companies have been registered for the manufacturing of ayurvedic medicines. They are also being imported.

The government should be monitoring the quality of these medicines. There has been an increase of the number of companies manufacturing ayurvedic medicines but the government is unable to implement the quality control strictly. So far only one such company has received the Good Manufacturing Practice Certificate. However, this certificate is not mandatory. Singadurbar Vaidyakhana Development Committee has been striving to receive this certificate for about four years but it has failed to do so.