Gender equality Emerging scenario

Nepal’s history isn’t different when it comes to the protection and promotion of women’s rights. The patriarchal model that societies have evolved through time and space has posed daunting challenges to women rights activists all over the world. Although women constitute half of Nepal’s population today, they continue to be discriminated both in explicit and implicit terms.

A cursory look at the historical changes that have come about in the Nepalese society, however, casts a ray of hope to the teeming

millions. The hope is that women will no longer

be discriminated like in

the past.

The success of the first democratic movement in 1990 brought some positive changes, as women’s rights came under the fundamental rights and also it was mandatory for all parties to set aside 5 percent of their party tickets for women candidates at all levels of elections. Although this was nothing substantial, it gave an impetus to the campaigners of women rights to lobby for additional rights and privileges.

Despite the changes brought about in many laws that are discriminatory against women, women legislators have expressed the urgency to amend many laws that contravene the International Treaties on Women Rights that Nepal is signatory to.

There have been developments towards stepping up the campaign for women’s rights in the past two decades. The number of registered women rights bodies has gone up, special programmes on women issues are being broadcast over the radio and television and significant level of success has been achieved towards sensitizing the men folk to respect the rights of women. The constitution of the National Women Commission is a case in point which could be ascribed as a small breakthrough in the crusade to protect the rights of women.

The results of the Constituent Assembly elections held in May 2008 have stood as a precursor of the fact that there has been a remarkable change in the mindset of how the political parties look at the issue of women rights in Nepal. The Interim Constitution has provisioned that there should be 33 per cent reservation for women candidates in all government and non-government vacancies and also during the time of filing candidacies for the elections. This should be regarded as a milestone in

giving leverage to women

to campaign for equal rights. The efforts should now be geared towards ensuring 50 per cent representation in all bodies—public, private and government

to give women the edge

to pursue their development and explore their capacity to lead.

Now that the eleven thematic committees of the Constituent Assembly have already submitted their report with recommendations on how women’s rights can be secured; the task on hand is to study the recommendations of individual committees and be selective on which rights to pick for passage from the Constitutional Committee, through public hearings and finally from the Constituent Assembly.

There are many issues on women rights which need to be addressed, among them guaranteeing reservation for marginalised women is a pertinent one. In addition to this, the issue of setting aside reservation in different social, economic and political sector for women in the other two categories - minority and backward classes is equally challenging.

First and foremost, the state needs to define categorically who the women in these three categories are before constitutional guarantees for the reservations of rights and privileges. If the definitions aren’t clear then there always exists the risk that even the privileged Dalit, Hindu, Muslim and other women would unjustifiably reap the benefits depriving the less fortunate women folks.

Although the Supreme Court in Nepal issued a ruling stating that children could obtain citizenship on the basis of lineage to his/her mother apart from the existing provision of obtaining one through lineage identified with the father; there are many preconditions that have been put forward making this provision difficult to implement. Thus efforts must be directed towards addressing the complexities in the new Constitution making the provision easier to implement.

The legislatures must work towards guaranteeing ownership over property for women in order to empower them. The idea of having a dual land ownership certificate in the name of both the wife and husband needs to be pushed ahead to ensure that women are not deprived of the family wealth.

The constitution in the making is certainly going

to be a lot better than the 1990 Constitution since there has been a lot of

brainstorming and public hearings on what women want and what their rights ought to be.

There, however, exists a glaring need to review and revise the existing regulations that could be ultra virus with the provisions in the new constitution so that timely amendments can be made through the next parliament for ensuring the smooth implementation of the Constitutional provisions on the rights of women.