EDITORIAL: Masculine parties

Failure to ensure 33pc women representation in party committees shows ‘of men, for men and by men’ attitude of parties

When it comes to making a mockery of rule of law, political parties in Nepal are invincible. They can influence – or even weaken – institutions to force them to play along. The recent case is registration of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), a left force born of a marriage between then CPN (UML) and the CPN-Maoist Centre, which is governing the country. The party’s registration had earlier faced a setback over its name, as Nepal Communist Party was already registered with the Election Commission (EC). It then changed its name to Nepal Communist Party (NCP) – NCP within brackets – but that also could not pave the way for its registration, for it had failed to ensure 33 per cent women representation in its central committee. But surprisingly, the EC on Wednesday relented and agreed to register the party “hoping that the party would later fulfil the legal criterion of including 33 per cent women in the central committee”. In its 441-member CC, the party has only 70 women members (16 per cent).

But it’s not only the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) which has failed to fulfil the women representation criterion. The main opposition Nepali Congress has only 16 female members (21.3 per cent) in its 75-member central working committee. In Rastriya Janata Party’s 815-strong working committee, only 129 women (15.8 per cent) have found their place. The Federal Socialist Forum- Nepal’s 268-member committee has only 28 women (10.44 per cent). Such a paltry representation of women in central committees of parties with “national status” is symptomatic of how our political parties undermine women, despite leaders’ untiring refrain of equal status to women, women empowerment and inclusion.

It was not long ago there was chest-thumping by our political leaders, who boasted that Nepal had “moved a lot ahead” when it came to women’s representation. Political parties ensured 33 per cent representation in the federal Parliament only because they were bound by the constitution, which strongly calls for inclusion and women representation. In line with the spirit of the constitution, the Political Party Registration Act in its Clause 15 (4) says: “A political party should have at least one-third women representation in all its committees.” But the reluctance to abide by this mandatory provision shows our leaders still believe in parties of men, for men and by men. Even in the House of Representatives elections held last year, all the political parties had followed a similar pattern – preference to male candidates in a direct election and fielding women under the proportional representation quota to compensate. The parties that are in Parliament to make laws are conveniently bending rules to their convenience. The Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s statement that “it would fulfil the criterion in due course” is unacceptable. As a ruling party, it should have led by example to make others follow suit. Women’s representation should not be viewed through the narrow perspective of meeting the numerical value; it should be understood and followed in letter and spirit. That aside, political parties should stop coercing constitutional bodies to bow down to their demands. They must keep in mind that weakening institutions will mean weakening democracy.

Unpaid health staff

The local levels are expected to provide better services to people at their doorsteps. The locals also constantly monitor as to whether basic services the local units are supposed to offer them are up to the mark. However, the people of the Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC) are deprived of basic health services as it has failed to pay salary to staffers of six health posts and one family planning clinic for the last four months. The staffers in six health posts in Harisiddhi, Dhapakhel, Sunakothi, Sainbu, Khokana, Bungamati and Family Planning Community Clinic are working unpaid for a long time.

They have asked LMC Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan to pay their salary soon. LMC has requested the Ministry of Finance to release the budget. How can they continue working there unpaid for such a long time? Before the health posts were handed over to the local units under the federal set-up, the DPHO used to take care of its local staffers. The ministry must release the fund without any delay. The LMC also should mobilise its resources to pay them till the budget is released by the ministry.