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Just women 

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Tufan Neupane in Himal Khabarpatrika, 16-22 July

Nepal’s new Constitution requires all political parties to choose women either as Chiefs or Deputy Chiefs of recently elected self-governing Local Councils. Political parties could not violate this constitutional provision, but blatantly disregarded its spirit by fielding women candidates mostly for Deputy Mayor or Deputy Village Chiefs.

They received a lot of flak for not showing faith in the ability of women to lead municipalities and village councils, but another provision of the same Constitution may partially redress the injustice done to them.

Article 217 of the Constitution has set aside the responsibility to head Judicial Committees of Local Councils to Deputy Mayors or Deputy Village Chiefs which  means that women will be at the helm of most local courts because nearly 90% of deputy mayors and chiefs are women.

There are 566 of the 617 municipal and village councils elected from the first two phases of local elections in May and June have women as Deputy Mayor and Deputy Village Chiefs.  They will be heading three-member Judicial Committees responsible to hear and rule on disputes related to land, other properties, cattle, communities and natural resources. However, their precise jurisdiction and roles will be determined by a law that is now in Parliament.

Advocate Nirupama Yadav, who was chosen by Sajha Party as a Deputy Mayor candidate in Kathmandu, says: “If women head local Judicial Committees, it will increase women’s access to justice.” Mediation and Reconciliation Committees will also be constituted under these Judicial Committee, which will function exactly like district courts. But all Deputy Mayors or Deputy Village Chiefs may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to head local courts.

So the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD) is preparing to train all Deputy Mayors and Deputy Village Chiefs on the roles and responsibilities of local Judicial Committees, how they function and how some cases are mediated and reconciled.

“Once these local courts come into effect, most property disputes will be solved at the local level,” says Dinesh Thapaliya, MoFALD Secretary. Hari Prabha Khadka, Deputy Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, says their roles as Local Judges will be huge, but they are capable of this. “If we face legal or technical problems, there will be experts to help us,” she says.

The Local Self Governance Act 1999 also had a provision to set up such judicial committees, but it was never implemented because of the delay in passing bylaws and regulations. Experts on local governance say that mistake should not be repeated.


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