Are women the second-class citizens in Nepal?


News February 2019

The increasing trend among women rights activists in social media to label themselves as second class citizens has opened a floor for discussion regarding how women are treated as second class citizens in Nepal? ‘A second class citizen is a person who has limited legal rights, civil rights, and socioeconomic opportunities and is often subjected to mistreatment despite their status as a citizen.’ In the patriarchal nation like ours, women are treated as second class citizens by the state through its rules, laws, and policies.[1]

How someone can be treated as second class citizen in a democratic nation which practices theory of inclusion and equity? This question can be raised, but in a nation where patriarchy is overwhelming, it is obvious because the existing laws and policies are the reflections of the society.

Taking about women’s rights, experts have frequently said that Nepal is a more liberal nation compared to other South Asian countries, and it has more progressive Constitution among South Asian nations. However, Nepali women are still deprived of equal rights and feel unequal than men. The citizenship issue is a more highlighted issue which directly creates disparity between men and women. If a woman wants to pass her citizenship to her offspring, she has to submit the documents that must prove that the father of her children has not been traced, which further victimizes the women and her children who have already been victimized due to her single status. On one hand, motherhood is considered divine in our society and on the other, mothers are treated as second-class citizens who cannot transfer citizenship by herself in a dignified way. In the constitution of Nepal, there is another discriminatory citizenship provision i.e. children from Nepali mother and foreign father can get naturalized citizenship whereas children from Nepali father and a foreign mother can get citizenship by descent[2]. Why is that women are mistreated and victimized everywhere?  Some men who are in the decision making position argue that if a women alone are allowed to pass the citizenship to their children then all the foreign seed will sprout in Nepal and Nepal will be overwhelmed by foreigners and that “true Nepalese” will become a minority in Nepal. Here, women are mistreated in the name of patriotism and nationalism. It is a simple question about equality not a question about nationalism.[3]

Citizenship issue is only a tip of the iceberg; there are lots of discriminatory measures which constrain women to think themselves as second class citizen in Nepal. For example, Nepal police also couldn’t come out from its patriarchal manifestation when they wrote the slogan ‘Nagarik Prahari ‘Dajubhai’, Surakshit Banaun Samajlai’ in Kathmandu metropolitan. It raises questions in every conscious minds that ‘Aren’t Women Citizens?’ What about women police officers who have had to face extra difficulties and barriers to enter the so called men’s profession? It excludes the contribution of female police officers, and patriarchal mindset is yet to fully accept women as police officers. It also indicates that women are treated as second-class citizens.

When we look at the sporting sector in Nepal, it is full of misogyny. Women athletes are treated as differently compared to male athletes. The sector has systematically put women’s sports lower than men’s sports. The women players are paid less than the male players. This system sees the women’s games many notches lower than the men’s games, regardless of how good the female players are. For example, the Prime Minister’s Cricket Cup, in this tournament, the prize amount for male team is 21 lakhs and female team receives only 5 lakhs. Similarly, male national players of ANFA (All Nepal Football Association) receive 15 thousand monthly but female national players receive only 7 thousand.[4]

Fundamental rights have been mentioned in the Constitution of Nepal 2072. Article 20 ensures the rights relating to justice, but it is still a far cry for women of Nepal. Rape and harassment victims do not get justice and somehow the state protects the perpetrators invisibly.  Article 35, Right to Health and Article 38, Right of Women ensure health rights and services, but still reproductive health and rights aren’t accessible for all women, Article 34, Right to Labor, but women are facing greater wage gap in private and informal sectors, and government hasn’t emphasized this issue yet and household works are unpaid and invisible in system of national accounting (SNA)[5]. This is mostly associated with women and girls and which has high use value. Due to the invisibility of their works, women lack confidence and self-esteem which is against Article 1, Right to Live with Dignity.  Similarly, gender specific human rights violations like rape, sexual harassment, acid attacks, bride burning in the name of dowry, trafficking, female feticide, domestic violence, and inequality in public sphere issues that are hampering women get equal rights. Women are terrorized and are insecure within their own territory and they feel themselves as second class citizen.

Last but not the least, the State has to be the provider and protector of rights for every citizen, but due to prejudice towards women, the state often acts as the violators of rights. Fundamental rights have only been superficially granted and in practice, women are still treated as second-class citizens in Nepal.

Author: Prabha Poudel, Prabha is an intern for Gender and Social Inclusion in CESIF Nepal


[1] Wikipedia, Second-class citizen

[2] [2] Constitution of Nepal, part-2, Right to citizenship

[3] Citizenship in mother’s name: Equality vs. Nationalism debate, Nepal Monitor,January 3,  2015

[4] Pawan Acharya, Dhanna Kheldaichhan, Nepal national weekly, page no. 28, 8-Baisak 2076

[5] Pushpa Ghimire Niroula, Unpaid care work and Gross Domestic Product ,Ashmita publication,–Final–English_4.pdf

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