Nepali Times
Politically Cracked
Singing of sorrow



The get-together of female relatives before Tij is the Nepali women's version of football night for men. Except you don't drag your inebriated self home after the party and pass out. You attend what has now become a month-long estrogenfest, and recite the trials and tribulations of women's lives musically: the neglect by the husband, the mistreatment by the in-laws, and how they should take up the only chance to dance because the rest of the year is, well, going to be shit.

Welcome to the life of a Nepali woman, where you dance and sing your sorrows away. And there is a long list of sorrows. The maternity death rate for Nepali women ranks among the highest in the world. While the overall literacy rate has gone up, the percentage of literate women still lags behind. Almost 83 per cent of households have no property under women's ownership. Women earn about three quarters of what men earn in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.

Those who seek economic independence in spite of these inherent disadvantages face further harassment in the workplace. Forget the backwaters, where uneducated men and women toil in the fields: around 50 per cent of women are victims of sexual harassment in the shiny glass towers of urban areas, says the International Labour Organization. That means one out of two women in your office been physically or verbally harassed, eyed by sleazy men, or shown pornographic images.

Consider all of this part and parcel of what Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn call the "greatest moral outrage of our century" in their new book Half the Sky. Discrimination has led to two million girls being lost every year; they are killed or aborted because, author claims they are unwanted. Another 60 to 100 million are 'missing' due to trafficking and slavery. Being a woman is tough all over the world. In Nepal, you get to sing about it.

Among the educated urban mass, the troubling aspect of this phenomenon is the failure to recognise discrimination when it happens, and the refusal to acknowledge that they can have a part in either eliminating or promoting it. During a light conversation about women's rights recetnly, a colleague pulled a disgusted face and said, "I hate feminists." Feminism is a dirty word. Those of us who risk being hated by colleagues because we want equal rights and freedom for women have to qualify it by saying we don't want to throw men off the cliff before extracting their semen so that we can populate the world with test-tube babies. There are crazies in every field, but will you stop caring for the environment because of some overzealous fruitarian eco-warriors who want you to live in a yurt in the woods?

If you question those who go around proclaiming they are not feminists and hate those that are, they will usually say that they have no problem if women want to pursue their goals in life. But to achieve the feminist utopia where there is no discrimination between the sexes requires a lot of people to change their behaviour and outlook. Only 24 per cent of men say they recognise instances of sexual harassment at work. Others seem to think that women actually enjoy being ogled.

We have the advantage that we do not live in a society where oppression is religiously or legally sanctioned. We can openly talk, or sing, about our grievances. That is the only first step. Eliminating discrimination is actually a conscious proactive process. But you can start with this: next time you say you are not a feminist, ask yourself if you would proudly go around saying you are a racist. Because saying you don't support equality between the sexes is exactly the same as saying you don't support equal rights for everyone because of their racial background.

The centre cannot hold, PUBLISHER'S NOTE
Nitty-gritty politicking, PRASHANT JHA
Meddling in the media, CK LAL
If the cap fits, ASHUTOSH TIWARI

1. who cares
so you want to blame everything on others.

dont forget, this  is not america where  term feminists sells. so people are going to respond to your nonsense. 

the biggest enemy of female are females. females pull legs, they destroy your life, they will connect you with the wrong male.

do you know what is the biggest reason behind your misery?

the combination of your dumbness and indian movies.

for eg- in indian movie, the rapist personality character for everyone is presented as hero for heroin and in real life, the followers go on to believe in the boy/man  with similar personality, behavior but the ending will be different than in those movies....... and then come individuals like you, who go around blaming everyone but self.

one obvious, simple, clear example is the wife of shovraj.

if you look clearly, you will see mainly three types of pro females in nepal:
1: politicians in speech- for vote.
2: articles- to sell paper. 
3: ngo- to milk donors.

many do act as if they agree with them, but it wont follow with action. why? the reason is simple, cause they all have suffered from female one war or other. 

one can get lots of benefit from female, it is really easy to fool females, may be you have seen on street with addict boy with good looking, smart girl,,,,,,,,,,,, ,, but if you start to respect, care her, she will make you pay.

its like, you use her or you will be destroyed by her.

if one gets only two options, definitely, male will choose the first one.

if you want change, you need to give us more options. 

2. who cares
and i have seen many women in kathmandu who are scared of their husband but disrespect, misbehave with others. 

so who do you think is the victim in this cases?

3. nepali mahila
The month long festival of teej is a very recent phenomenon in the urban areas. Women in the villages still do not have the means or time to go around showing off their latest fashion wear,eat the best meal and gossip for a whole month. I guess we are loosing the whole concept of "dar khane".  Back in the days, "dar" clearly meant vegetarian meal or so I thought. Today, everything is done in a grand  way from pasni to bartamanda to wedding parties.

4. Sophiya
Nice article Indu.

5. ushaft
I am a male. I recognize the presence and the harms of sexual harassment at workplace (and elsewhere) especially in developing countries. I support equal educational, economic, social and professional opportunities for women. I support feminists in their fight.

But I am not a feminist. I am ok without being labeled an -ist. Because I've seen feminists who seem to have enough reasons to defend something as disgusting as the "paternity fraud" in the name of equal rights.

I dont mean to put this blame on all of the feminist movement, and this might not be very true in the case of our society (as it is with the west), but repeating the past wrongs of men isn't justify. Men and women have different strengths, and we should aim to create a situation where both can be realized, not just one at the cost of another.

6. Ramji

I am a new man indeed. I always fight for equality of sexes. The article is very nice and it has brought up a good message. We have to respect and adore to woman and should give them equal right. No discrimination, no harassment; remember every woman is the mother of creation!   

7. Anish
'Feminism' is entirely a political notion and those who go about calling themselves are just trying to become politically correct and garner some cheap popularity. In developed or under developed nations, ' feminism' is used for gaining political leverage. They install quota system for women here and there, appoint women in few committee as token, pontificate on the issues of women empowerment and gloat in their self-righteousness. I am not a feminist and I find no shame in that. Not calling yourself feminist is not equivalent to calling yourself racist.

Yes, suffering of females from the hands of male ( or paternalistic society) is real and yes, any civilized society should strive of female equality.However, we also must reexamine our approach towards 'feminism'. Feminist should concentrate their efforts in social and economic issues. For example, formation of groups such as 'aama samuha', credit cooperatives in rural area, adult literacy programs,programs to  increase enrollment of girls in school, programs to keep in school, programs to improve nutrition and health of female children, improved stoves that reduce indoor pollution etc.. all are praise worthy for their efforts. However, provisions of  quota for women in competitive exams, provisions for quota in political party and other such politically driven initiatives undermine rather than strengthen the 'feminist' movement.

8. CKO
what about these faminsts who have given a bad impression to so called faminist movement loving to smoke, getting back to home at midnights, fighting with husband and in-laws for tiny things, not allowing their kids breast feeding and so on... in the name of GENDER EQUITY?

9. Susal Stebbins Collins
I am a formal professional "feminist" in that I had a job as an advocate for a US women's organization for ten years, during which time I worked on both national and international women's issues. I am also a good friend of many men. And I have lived in and remain strongly connected with Nepal for a decade.

Unfortunately, the term "feminist" has become very divisive as it has been used not only to call for women's rights, but also sometimes to unfairly denigrate men.  

 Anyone who is committed to the well-being of humankind must recognize that there are patterns of mistreatment of women all over the world, and that part of this mistreatment is direct physical and economic control and intimidation of women by men.  One does not have to declare oneself a feminist to address any part of this problem. 

At the same time, it must be recognized that there are also patterns of mistreatment of men, for example that they are often required to participate in violence and must be apart from loved ones to work for their families. Men are unfairly blamed for all the problems in society. Individual women also mistreat some men around them, but they have less societal power to do so.  

Arguing over the word "feminist" is missing the point. Working for the well-being of both women and men and ending the patterns of mistreatment and blame of both is much more useful. 

10. Arthur
#9 How could any reasonable person object to mistreating "who cares" (#1 and #2)? Shouldn't societal power be used to suppress such people?

11. who cares
Susal Stebbins Collins

yes, your view is balanced and factual. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)