March 2023 Analysis: Gender, Social Inclusion and Human Rights

Posted by : Prashanti Poudyal


Date : 2023-03-30

The National Assembly passed a resolution motion calling for an end to caste-based discrimination, which has remained prevalent despite being illegal. The motion aims to pressure the government to take action against discrimination towards Dalits. Trafficking of women for forced prostitution continues to be a problem, with recent cases of rescue reported. The recent appointment of a male vice president has prompted concerns about political parties' commitment to fair representation. Meanwhile, protest against loan sharking by victims from varied southern districts cause stir in the Valley.

Timeline of Major Events

Date Event
March 11 Four candidates, including three women, registered their nominations for the post of Vice President of Nepal.
March 12 Vice President candidates, Mamata Jha and Asta Laxmi Shakya protest the candidacy of Janata Samajbadi Party’s Ram Sahay Yadav claiming that the post must now be occupied by a woman.
March 19 Nine girls and a two-month-old infant were rescued from a flat in Delhi by the Nepali Embassy in Delhi with cooperation from Delhi Police.
March 28 PM Dahal commissioned a team to talk to the loan sharks victims.

Efforts to End Caste-based Discrimination

Despite the fact that Nepal’s laws have made caste-based discrimination illegal, this unjust practice persists in the country, both openly and secretly, in urban and rural areas. On Wednesday, the National Assembly unanimously endorsed a resolution motion to end caste-based discrimination. The aim of the motion is to pressure the government towards effectively ending discrimination and oppression against Dalits. Among other things, the 19-point motion directs government to ensure proper legal action against the culprits, as well as report the upper house regarding the progress it has made towards creating an equal and equitable environment to the Dalits.

The motion came in response to Tul Prasad Bishwokarma’s difficulties to find a place to rent in Kathmandu. An elected member of the National Assembly and a Rastriya Janamorcha leader, he faced difficulties while searching for a place to live, which only happened after the landlords heard his surname. Biswokarma could only imagine the plight of thousands of Dalits in the country, if he, being an elected representative, faced such discrimination so overtly.

Selling of Innocence

The trafficking of women for forced prostitution continues to be a problem in Nepal; this month too, several cases of rescue were reported. On March 19th, nine girls and an infant were rescued from a flat in Delhi. Last year in February, the Nepali Embassy in Delhi received a letter about the disappearance of four girls from Kathmandu. The Embassy then worked alongside Delhi Police and various social organizations to locate the missing girls.
While women continue to suffer such ordeal abroad, many women at home still choose to go abroad in search of better pastures with fake documents and tourist visa believing a faraway relative who claimed for everything to be alright. In the past two months, the Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau of the Nepal Police intercepted 568 women from the Tribhuwan International Airport who were flying to the Gulf countries on visit visas. The bureau claimed that these women were being taken to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman as domestic workers on fraudulent documents. These women, when brought to the bureau, would get angry at the police officers for trying to shatter their foreign dreams. While right to make their own decision is every woman’s prerogative, however, travelling on fake documents poses a serious risk to their life and wellbeing.

Call for a Woman Vice President Gone Futile

Nepal got a new vice president in March. However, to the rights activists’ dismay – a male. Even though three out of four candidates vying for vice presidentship were women, Janata Samajbadi Party’s Ram Sahay Yadav, a man at last won the seat.

Upon registering for the candidacy of the vice president, candidates Mamata Jha and Asta Laxmi Shakya protested to the Election Commission to investigate upon the Constitution’s provision regarding the division of important roles for either male or female. However, the spokesperson for the commission, Shaligram Paudel, explained that the Constitution permits the President and Vice President to be of different genders or communities. The ‘or’ preposition dictates that only the gender or the community of the Vice President needs to be taken into account during the election process, which subsequently opened the door for Ram Sahay Yadav to file his candidacy and eventually get elected for the same.

Perhaps, it boils down to the conscience of political parties; whether or not do they want equality. The same was seen in both the local and federal elections – parties using the provisions of representation for their own benefit. Alliance politics curtailed women’s representation in the local election, wherein parties formed alliances just so that they could play with the loopholes, and subsequently not have to file women candidates as mandated. With the election of the vice president, once again the issue of representation has taken a backseat with parties prioritizing their own political leverage over the need for a fair and equal representation.

Protest Against Loan Shark

Government is working to establish a law to criminalize loan sharking as a response to protests by victims demanding legal action against predatory lenders. On March 28, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal commissioned a team to talk to the victims and directed them to take measures to amend the National Criminal Procedure (Code) that would criminalize loan sharking. The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs is coordinating with the Home Ministry to draft the said law which may list loan sharking as a criminal offense. As of now, loan sharking is classified as a civil offense, leaving victims to fight against deep-pocketed loan sharks on their own. Thus, the new law, when passed, would be timely given the current protests, where victims from varied districts have gathered in Kathmandu to voice their agenda. Protestors claim that local loan sharks have been duping them of millions via an unfair system, or colloquially known as meterbyaj.

Loan sharks target vulnerable communities who have limited access to collateral or financial literacy, leading to situations when they’re easily taken advantage of. Classifying loan sharking as a criminal offence is a step towards protecting victims and bridging their access to justice. However, given that the government does not deal with the root cause of this fiasco, i.e., poverty, illiteracy and unemployment, criminalizing loan sharking alone is going to be futile. This act of the Prime Minister is also timely, as he began his third tenure with rosy promises of prioritizing grass-root issues over party issues.