Haunted women

Nepali society has undergone a lot of positive changes in recent times. Jana Andolan II marked an epochal event in Nepal’s history and brought to the fore people’s aspiration to live as free citizens with all the democratic and human rights. Yet, it seems, there is a huge gulf between appearance and reality. In appearance, women have more rights and say than ever before. The provision of 33 per cent reservation is a case in point. In reality, thousands of women across the country are still being hounded as witches. In the district of Nawalparasi alone, over 200 women stand accused of being witches even as the local administration looks on in silence.

According to a recent study of the Forum for Women, Law and Development in Nawalparasi, if someone falls ill, it is not medical doctors, but shamans who most people turn to. The shamans find it all too convenient to lay the blame for all the diseases on the “witches”. In a democracy, no one has the right to deny others the basic rights conferred on them as the citizens of a free society. It is sheer hypocrisy to claim to be fighting for women’s rights on the one hand while ignoring such blatant attacks on their right to live free and without fear.

In this context, the duty of local administrators in curbing such social evils cannot be overemphasised. Only when the local law enforcement agencies are seen to be cracking down hard can such practices be rooted out completely.