Women in politics: Equal treatment is a must
After 70 years of struggle, what the Constitution of Nepal, 2072 has to offer are: maintenance of patriarchal essence and regressive provisions for Nepali women. Even in pre-historical society women had right to give her child’s identity
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”- Plato
Politics is a mechanism to shape and lead the society, country and other existing institutions through power and, lead the society towards development. Women, who are more than 50% of the total population, are holding less power and property as compared to their male counterparts in our society. There are multiple reasons behind it; one of the major reasons is structural discrimination against women that creates barriers for the meaningful participation of women in politics.
In current scenario, most women in politics are merely a figure head to fill up the mandatory number. Most of the women have been entered through PR system with support of kinship or as a wife/daughter/in-laws of some powerful men. Are women not capable of for free competition? Are they not willing to participate in politics or do they have no access? These are the real questions. Why hasn’t a society which prides itself in worshipping “Durga Mata”, given enough opportunity to bring women leaders in front? The shadow contribution of women has always remained unacknowledged and this constitution awards them by making them second class citizens. Whether it be Maobadi Aandolan or Madhesh Aandolan, women’s contribution cannot be undermined; however, in decision-making process they have been excluded historically. There is a lack of women leadership in Nepal, though the first women’s organization was established in 1917-18 in Siraha district with 30-40 members with a vision to encourage women’s involvement in income generating activities.
In Jaynagar, Janakpur, “Adarsha Mahila Sangh” was established in 1948 with an objective of eliminating social evils and raise political awareness regarding women’s rights. It shows that the women were actively participating in politics since 20th century. Nepal Women’s Association was established in 1947 for social justice and equality. NC leader Mangala Devi Singh was more conscious about women’s voting right and freedom. Another women’s organization, Nari Jagriti, was founded in 1948, with an objective to promote female education.
In Nepal’s history after 1951, during King Tribhuvan’s period, an advisory assembly of male members formed, after a protest from Nepal Mahila Sangh and Akhil Mahila Sangathan, there were 4 women members involved in a new advisory assembly of 113 members.
The new Constitution, 2072, has drawn a black line to exclude them through citizenship process. Why were they excluded intentionally? If they were not able, how could they start such organizations in 20th century? Women’s Development Centre was established in 1977, in Nepalgunj with an objective of eradicating superstitious belief from our society.
Still, such beliefs are deep-rooted in practice, such as witch-hunting, and widows are considered as unfortunate sign. In 1978 Women Development Organization was established in Biratnagar which had a motive to help women become self-reliant. Despite such efforts the status of women has not improved in our society. It reminds me of Dr. V.R. Ambedkar’s quote, “If the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no law, no Parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word. What is the use of the fundamental rights to the Negroes in America, to the Jews in Germany, and to the Untouchables in India?”
The Government established Women’s Training Centre in 1961 in Kathmandu and on the occasion of Women’s Year 1975, the government promoted and expanded this organization in Pokhara, Surkhet, Dhankuta and Dipayal. It is worth noting that none of the centers were expanded in Madhesh.
Under the new constitution, women are considered equal with that of their male counterparts. But it has added one more discriminatory brick wall for marginalized and deprived women. In Article 84 (1) (b), under PR in the lower house, there’s a provision for the representation of eight groups – Women, Dalits, Janajatis, Khasa-Aryas, Madhesis, Tharus, Muslims, and Underprivileged. As only Khasa-Aryas defined in constitution seem to keep the opportunities around their family and kinship. The clause discourages the deprived women to get access to the opportunity with well competent Khas-Aryas women.
Thus affirmative action to uplift those deprived women will not bring positive impact in their life through equality rather than equity. After 70 years of struggle, what the Constitution of Nepal, 2072 has to offer are: maintenance of patriarchal essence and regressive provisions for Nepali women. Even in pre-historical society women had right to give her child’s identity but Nepali women are still struggling for her identity and equal citizen’s right.
The major question here is, women have contributed to Nepali politics since beginning and struggled with their male counterparts in equal capacity, then why is this discrimination? Though women in Aryan Society have experienced many kinds of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the state seems to fail to curtail this by making women legally weak. It is impossible to envision a modern society if women are not treated equally with their male counterparts.