August Analysis: Gender and Social Inclusion

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The month of August saw the much contentious Citizenship Act 2006 Amendment Bill yet again delayed as the President sent it back to the parliament for review. The bill then was endorsed by the Lower House without any alteration and is now awaiting approval by the Upper House. A rape survivor, Niharika Rajput attempted self-immolation demanding justice. While a viral dance step on Tiktok called for moral policing. Jessica Stern, a U.S. Special Envoy, visited Nepal and attended the annual Gai Jatra calling it the ‘most magnificent pride parades she felt so proud have participated.

Timeline of Major Events

DateEvents
August 10, 2022Jessica Stern, a U.S. Special Envoy, visited Nepal from August 10 to August 14. During her visit, Special Envoy Stern met with representatives from the government and other groups to discuss furthering the human rights of LGBTQI+ people both nationally and internationally.
August 12, 2022Nirarika Rajput attempted self-immolation in front of the President’s Office at Sheetal Niwas.
August 14, 2022Upon receiving it for authentication from the Speaker, the Citizenship Act 2006 Amendment Bill was sent back to the House of Representatives for review by President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
August 18, 2022The Citizenship Act 2006 Amendment Bill, which President Bidya Devi Bhandari had sent back for review, was approved by the House of Representatives without any alterations.
August 26, 2022‘Kala Chashma’ video going viral on Teej celebration videos, amidst questioning from ‘moral police.’

Citizenship Amendment Bill at Contention

On July 8, the House of Representative had introduced a new measure to modify the Citizenship Act after withdrawing an earlier one and being approved by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Parliament following 22 months of discussion. On July 22, the lower house of the parliament approved the Citizenship Act 2006 Amendment Bill while the upper house on July 28. The Speaker then forwarded the bill to Sheetal Niwas on July 31 for validation from the President. However, President Bidya Devi Bhandari sent it back for review laying out a series of 15 concerns associated.

One of the lasting solutions should be found to the issue of naturalized citizenship, the President had raised. The issue of naturalized citizenship is close to the Madhesi population and in her message, the President made clear, that it should be resolved in a permanent way. However, experts believe that President Bhandari is attempting to facilitate the CPN-UML’s political agenda by using the issue of citizenship to garner nationalistic sentiments amongst voters at the upcoming provincial and federal elections. KP Sharma Oli had attempted similar move in 2015, using the Indian blockade to portray himself as an anti-Indian, nationalistic leader. That in turn had helped him to win the election in 2017.

After consulting legal experts and civil society members, President Bhandari held meetings with retired and incumbent army officials together with the home minister – Bal Krishna Khand on August 25, 2022. Khand expressed that the President and the CPN-UML were trying to politicize upon the matter, citing that the amendment bill is no different than the ordinance passed earlier in May 2020 during the KP Sharma Oli administration.

Until now, all of the President’s decisions are within the constitution, however, they are partisan in nature and in favor of CPN-UML. Now that the President has just one constitutional option, which is to authenticate the bill, meeting with the army officials, especially, at the Sheetal Niwas seems redundant.

Fight for Justice

Niharika Rajput ends her hunger strike. Photo RSS.

Rape survivor, Niharika Rajput attempted self-immolation in front of the President’s Office at Sheetal Niwas on August 12, 2022. Rajput, demanding justice, was on hunger strike, claiming that Shivaraj Shrestha – a resident of Kshireshwarnath Municipality-3, Mahendra Nagar – repeatedly raped her and impregnated her.

On March 2, 2020, Rajput had reached Dhanusha District Court to appeal her case, but the court decided that the existing evidence could not establish the crime against the accused. Rajput then gave birth to her son on August 21, 2020. She then reached Janakpur High Court demanding justice, but to no avail. After that, Rajput came to Kathmandu and approached the National Human Rights Commission. She started a hunger strike demanding a DNA test claiming that Shrestha is

actually her baby’s father.

On August 12, Rajput returned home upon being assured that her demands to be met. Government officials including Joint Secretary Shivaram Pokharel and Under Secretary Basanta Bhattarai, both representing the Home Ministry, had signed a five-point agreement before she decided to end her fast-unto-death.

Rights activists cite many hurdles for rape survivors while seeking justice. Not only are they subjected to statutory limitation while appealing their case, but lack of evidence also gets in the way. Since rapes often lack evidences due to technicalities, rape survivors often reach to such extremes as Rajput in search for justice.

Viral Dance Step

On August 23, 2022, @priyanka_oli, a Tiktok user, uploaded a video featuring six young Nepali women, serving as health workers at Babai Rural Municipality, Dang, dancing to Katrika Kaif and Siddharth Malhotra-starrer, ‘Kala Chasma.’ The video clip featured five women grooving behind whilst one woman twerking – laying on all fours and thrusting her hips upwards and downwards. The video quickly went viral garnering 853,000 views within five-days of getting uploaded. The comments however were far from supportive. ‘You should take them out of their jobs. How will such women give any services?’ were some of the remarks shared by the viewers.

@priyanka_oli, then deleted the video in question and uploaded a new video wherein all women involved apologized to the audience for ‘overstepping the line demarcated by society’ and promising to ‘stay within the dignity of our roles.’

The choreography copied and enacted by numerous Nepali social media users, including @priyanka_oli, was first uploaded by TheQuickStyle, a Norwegian hip-hop dance crew. However, the instant women began to copy the dance moves, ‘moral polices’ labelled the moves, ‘anti-national’ and ‘those best fit for bars’.

Gender experts cite this kind of moral policing as a way of controlling women. The health workers in question claim to have been praised for their act of kindness earlier in their Tiktok videos, but a mere dance move deemed them as immoral. With Teej itself gaining mixed sentiment with some arguing for and some against, these moral policing over something as harmless as dance moves certainly brings into question as to how far can the society go to control women.

‘Nepal Ahead in LGBTQI rights,’ says Stern

On an official five-day visit from August 10 to 14, Jessica Stern, the US Department of State’s Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons, visited Nepal. She participated in Kathmandu’s annual Gai Jatra festival and thought it was “the most magnificent pride parades she felt so proud have participated”.

While even the United States’ constitution does not officially acknowledge gender and sexual minority, Nepal does; which makes it in a better position than many other nations. Stern stressed that The US and many other governments must learn that when vulnerable and marginalized populations are recognized by the law, they are safer.

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