Nepali Times
More than half the sky


When the centre doesn't hold because the centre is so obsessed with gaining and staying in power, things fall apart. The state sinks into statelessness. So, when lawlessness is rife it may seem a waste of time to make even more laws. Yet, that is what we are striving to do with the new constitution.

There will be those who will rightly argue that if the 1990 constitution was respected, if there weren't powerful Nepalis who behaved as if they were above the law, if justice was blind, perhaps we wouldn't even need a new constitution.

Nowhere is this more glaring than in laws designed to protect Nepali women from discrimination. Nearly ten years after the legalisation of abortion, there are still women languishing in jails across the country, many of them reported to police by abusive in-laws and husbands after they gave birth to still-born babies. During just one month, there were four suicides by women in Rupandehi district recently, mostly wives who took their lives because they couldn't tolerate violent husbands.

Nepal's patriarchy asserts itself in less violent ways, too, in the dominance of men in positions of power in the bureaucracy, in government, in business and the media. It doesn't strike anyone as odd that among high-achieving overseas Nepalis on a recent book cover, there isn't a single woman.

Deep-rooted cultural discrimination needs several generations to eradicate, it needs a strong educational component. But one has to start with laws, even if they are flouted or ignored in the beginning. It isn't just a formality for Nepal to ratify international human rights covenants.

In this issue we look at several examples of social injustice in a male-dominated society. A rebel army that once had one-third of its force composed of women guerrillas, that stood for the liberation of rural Nepali women is now abandoning them. In hindsight it almost looks like the commanders condoned wartime marriages because the young girls could be used as "comfort women". More than 700 complaints have been filed by Maoist women against their husbands, but the party and the government of which it is a coalition partner seem to have other more pressing concerns.

A nun was raped in Sankhuwasabha last month by a gang led by the driver of her bus. She is still in hospital, her family don't know where to go. The government Teaching Hospital admitted her only after the National Women's Commission got involved. The district administration in Sankhuwasabha is under pressure to let the rapists free.
A draft of the new constitution has clauses in it that are supposed to be an improvement on aspects of the interim constitution that were particularly unfair towards women. Guess what, the High-level Task Force has come up with provisions that make it even more difficult for Nepali women and their children to have citizenship after marriage.
The irony of it all, of course, is that foreigners are caught all the time at international airports with forged Nepali passports. It is common knowledge that non-Nepali men buy Nepali citizenship certificates under the counter, and go on to stand for and win elections. Yet, five million genuine Nepalis (many of them women and children) don't have citizenship papers.

But then there are also women like Sarita Thami (p12-13) who refused family pressure to get married, enrolled in school, is now in Grade 8 and is determined to be a teacher so she can help other girls like her in her community in a remote village in Sindhupalchok.

Nepali women hold up half the sky. With fairer laws and better implementation, they could hold up all of it.

Read also:
Sorry soldiers, HEADLINE
Love in a time of war, ARUNA RAYAMAJHI
Wartime marriages between Maoists don't withstand the pressures of peace
Womanpower stays home to teach, as manpower migrates, WILKO VERBAKEL in SINDHUPALCHOK
"I wanted to murder whoever did this to my daughter", DEWAN RAI

1. Nares H.
Heart-rending accounts

2. K. K. Sharma

You said it: IMPLEMENTATION,  is the word. 

3. Laxman karki
I genuinely believe on the basis of my own work experience as a researcher & as a human rights activist that we have delusion about how to ensure proper representation of our women sisters whom you termed the Half sky in state's decision making process. We  have strong belief that if we write everything on constitution in favor of women  that will solve problems as a magic stick.We tried positive discrimination measures as reservation to ensure the proper participation of Women, Dalits & other marginalized section of the community.   Though, Constitutions either it was 1990 or present Interim Constitution both are based on principle of equality before the law. Still i was not thrilled  when UNDP praised Nepal's success to ensure maximum women's participation in Constituent Assembly and other organs of the government. Over all until & unless country itself  cannot deliver substantively on women's education, health & more importantly economy we will not be able to get some concrete results on this regard. There is always reflection of country's poor governance & excessive politics everywhere Much more have been done & much more have to be done.  

4. Ravi
Why dont you start the process yourself by installing a Female editor for your news paper. Maybe we can start the equality revolution from Nepali Times.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)