The federal and provincial election of 2079 has highlighted the lack of nomination of women and marginalized castes. Criticisms have also been raised regarding the nomination for the Proportional Representation list, which has been occupied by powerful leaders. The month of October also saw the arrest of suspended cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane, and the release of comedian Apoorwa Kshitiz.
Timeline of Major Events
|October 6||Complained filed at the Election Commission to investigate on the misuse of Proportional Representation nomination for the election|
|October 6||Rape-accused Sandeep Lamicchane is arrested at the Tribhuvan International Airport, upon arrival; and undergoes medical checkup|
|October 21||The Kathmandu District Court ordered the release of comedian Apoorwa Kshitiz Singh on bail of Rs. 250,000|
|October 23||Nepal Police completes its investigation into Sandeep Lamichhane, and recommends a jail term of up to 12-years|
Representation of Women at the Election 2079
With the election nearing, less than 10% of the nominees for the First-Past-the-Post are women. As seen in the last local election, where women contested mostly for deputy roles, a trend similar is to be found for the federal and provincial election, where women are scarcely nominated for the First-Past-the-Post.
Women who won in the federal parliament under the First-Past-the-Post in the past three elections:
• 12.5% for the First Constituent Assembly Election 2064
• 4.16% for the Second Constituent Assembly Election 2070
• 3.6% for the first general election of federal parliament of republic Nepal 2074
As it can be noted from the figure above, the most that was seen of women’s direct election win was in the first constituent assembly, while it kept decreasing from there.
It starts at the party level, as in order for women to be directly elected, they first have to be nominated by the party. In terms of numbers, CPN (UML) has filed the greatest number of women candidates among the national parties, which is almost 8% of the 139 candidates. But the CPN (Maoist Center) which is in the five-party alliance has picked the greatest in terms of percentage – almost 16% of its candidates, while the Nepali Congress has picked up almost 5%. Janata Samajwadi Party and Loktantrik Samajwadi Party did not file any women candidates. Considering the number of candidates of all parties and independents, 233 women are running for the election, which is almost 9%.
Notwithstanding, the 33% women’s quota in the federal parliament will have been met after this election too, as the Proportional Representation system will fulfil the quota nonetheless. However, women’s little nomination for the First-Past-the-Post speaks volume about how politics still remains a game for men. Clearly, the descriptive representation of women leaders in the parliament had little to do with their substantive representation. Furthermore, with the Prime Minister’s wife Aarju Deuba hogging the constitutional rights of underrepresented women by occupying Proportional Representation nomination list further corroborates misuse of the Proportional Representation system, reserved for the underrepresented groups and minorities.
The Representation of Minority Ethnic Groups
The purpose of Proportional Representation, as mandated by the Constitution of Nepal, is to provide a space to the lesser privileged or under represented. Since 2006, a total of three elections have been held, together with the election for two Constituent Assemblies and one for the House of Representatives. However, out of the total 126 castes, 62 castes including Kusunda, Nurang, Raute, Kalar, Lohorung, Balul, Chidimar have never been represented in the House of Representatives so far, cited a soon-to-be published report of the National Inclusion Commission, a constitutional body.
Forgetting the purpose of the Proportional Representation, leaders seem to have manipulated the same for their benefit. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s wife, Aarju Rana has occupied the women’s quota, UML leader Raghuji Panta occupied the Khas-Arya quota, and Bimalendra Nidhi – the Madhesi quota. A complaint was filed on 6th of October, pleading the election commission to investigate upon the list submitted by the parties citing it to be against the principle of inclusion.
When it comes to the representation of the other gender, the situation is, sadly, not different. Time and again the transgenders or the ‘other’ genders have had to face hurdle because of their gender identity. In 2013, Bhumika Shrestha got a seat in Nepali Congress and was nominated for the second Constituent Assembly in the Proportional Representation quota. While her name was recommended for the federal election in 2017, she was asked to forfeit as her citizenship name stated as ‘Kailash Shrestha.’ Dilu Buduja – a transgender man, who is contesting election this year from Madhav Kumar Nepal’s CPN (Unified Socialist) Party, was barred from contesting local level elections in 2017 at his home district of Myagdi as his citizenship was issued under the ‘third’ category. Together with Dilu Buduja, Shilpa Chaudhary – a transgender woman, are nominated this year for the House of Representative by CPN (Unified Socialist).
Sandeep Lamichhane Under Arrest
Suspended cricket captain Sandeep Lamichhane was arrested upon arrival at the Tribhuwan International Airport on October 6th, 2022. After investigation, the Metropolitan Police Circle, where Lamichhane has been convicted, recommended a jail term of at least 12-years.
Section 219 of the Criminal (Code) Act, 2017 states that if someone engages in sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or with a minor girl below 18 years with her consent, it will be taken as rape. Submitting their report to the Kathmandu District Attorney Office on October 23rd, 2022, the Metropolitan Police Circle found that Lamichhane had indeed raped the minor. The police also recommended ‘appropriate compensation’ for the victim.
Since last few months, actor Paul Shah has also been under arrest for similar reasons. While Lamichhane is yet to be tried at the court, this incident and its wide media coverage brought much needed awareness regarding statutory rape, in particular.
Comedian Apoorwa Kshitiz Bailed
Comedian Apoorwa Kshitiz, who was arrested on August 28th, 2022, was ordered release on bail of Nrs. 250,000 by the Kathmandu District Court. Four different cases against him were filed by the government attorney at the Kathmandu District Court. Kshitiz is facing charges for hurting the sentiments of Newa people, after some activists filed a complaint claiming that his performance disrespected the community and culture. He claimed that the sole purpose of his performance was to make people laugh and also issued an apology video. However, the police arrested him nonetheless.
Experts claim that his arrest might have a political motive. With the election approaching, parties are looking for an agenda to politicize and cash votes. When compared with many other Nepali comedians in the past, who have offended a community one way or the other, Kshitiz’s arrest seemed to be biased.