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Nepalese women struggling for democratic rights

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Sep 17: Nepalese women, who have been on the forefront of anti-monarchy struggle, are now striving hard to get equal democratic rights and political and economic empowerment through 33 per cent reservation in legislature and government jobs, said Ms Urmila Aryal, Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare of Nepal.

Ms Aryal, who is the lone women in the 21-member multi-party transition government of Nepal, told UNI that the women leaders have successfully struggled to get abolished most of the discriminatory laws against the fair sex, which included the laws barring women from transferring citizenship to progeny and having rights to ancestral property. They are now striving hard to get remaining such legilsation abolished and provide them equal rights and opportunities.

''We are demanding that women be given 33 per cent reservation in politics, Parliament, Cabinet and also in government jobs.

Our major victory is assurance from political leadership that women will get reservation in government jobs in the selection to be held from the next year,'' said the member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninst).

Nepalese women, with 40 per cent literacy rate, at present share only 8 to ten per cent of government jobs. They had no right to ancestral property and they cannot transfer citizenship to their children, but the reinstated House of Representative has passed a landmark resolution in the month of May this year providing citizenship rights for women, 33 per cent reservation of posts for them at all level of state body and amendments to various other discriminatory laws.

Ms Aryal, who headed a ten-member women delegation which visited strife torn Afghanistan and India to learn from the experiences of women's movement in these countries, said that the delegation was highly impressed with the achievements of women in Afghanistan where they have got 25 per cent reservation in the Constitution. Though Afghanistan women are contesting elections as independent candidate and not as politically united force, but getting this reservation is a major achievement and women leaders of Nepal would try to achieve the same in their proposed constitution.

She said that the visit, facilitated by United Nations Fund for Women, has helped the delegation in eqipping themselves to play a crucial role in engendering the peace and nation building process currently unfolding in Nepal.

Women leaders cutting across party lines have formed a unique alliance called 'Inter Party Women's Alliance for Peace and Inclusive Democracy' to bring a unified voice of women in forefront.

Though during anti-monarchy movement, women were assured equal representation in the government, it was found that during cabinet formation only one woman was included and also in various Parliamentary Committee their representation was not there. The women alliance unitedly fought against this and their intense pressure forced leaders to listen to their demands.

Women's meaningful respresentation is critical to ensure sustainable peace and development, Ms Aryal said and added that now awareness among women in Nepal has increased and their expectations have been raised.

They are now struggling to avoid being sidelined and want to actively participate political activities.

''There are many challenges, but with concerted and united struggle we will definitely gain equal rights and opportunities,'' she said.

About the issue of trafficking of Nepalese women into brothels of Mumbai and Delhi, Ms Aryal said that this was a regional problem which need concerted efforts by the governments of both the countries to curb it.

''We need to work in close cooperation and make a future strategy so that mafia on both side of border involved in this could be stopped. The matter could be tackled both at the bilateral and SAARC fora,'' she said.

Already the Nepalese government has formulated a bill to strongly penalise such mafia but its implementation would require bilateral cooperation.

Admitting that trafficking has led to the problem of sex workers coming back with HIV/AIDS infection and facing stigma and discrimination.

Ms Aryal said that to make people aware of the disease. A National Centre for HIV/AIDS and STDs has been set up. The coordinated efforts are being made to check spread of the disease.

She said that the major focus was to increase awareness among women about this disease. Education and economic and political empowerment of women would also go a long way in reducing the burden of such diseases.


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