Sunday, 24 October, 2021

Ensure Gender Equality

Despite having a patriarchal social structure, Nepal has been making a steady progress in terms of reducing gender inequality. As achieving gender equality is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the country has remained effortful in realising this. The Constitution of Nepal, 2015 envisages a society which is free from all sorts of gender disparity. Article 43 of the national charter deals with women's social, economic and health-related rights. It ensures their rights to lineage, right to safe maternity and reproduction, right against all forms of exploitation, and equal rights in family matters and property. Since the promulgation of the new constitution, the successive governments have been working towards incorporating gender equality in all of their development policies and programmes. They have adopted the policy of having a gender responsive budget system to address the prevalent gender-related issues.

With the introduction of more women-friendly development policies and programmes, women seem to have been making great strides in different fields such as education, social service and development, banking and finance, science and technology, media, environment, economic development and politics. The Nepal Living Standards Survey (2010/11) shows that the country's adult literacy rate stands at 56.6 per cent. But the male and female literacy rate is 71.6 per cent and 44.5 per cent, respectively. School dropout rate among girls is also much higher than boys. This points to a wide gender gap and prevalence of social stereotypes against girls and women. Besides, there are evidences that women still have lower access to education, health services, social security, freedom and decision-making processes. Although several measures have been taken to ensure property rights to women, many of them do not have access to and control over property inheritance.

However, the social and economic status of women has improved considerably over the years, thanks to various steps taken to empower them. They now have started fighting various social evils such as chhaupadi and dowry practice. Many girls and women in different parts of the country are still becoming the victims of various forms of domestic and gender-based violence. It is appalling to note that incidences of rape, abduction, acid attack, trafficking and killing of women are often reported. A civilised society cannot even imagine these heinous crimes against women. Anyway, laws have been in place to tackle such criminal activities. Once these rules are enforced in an effective manner, our society may become free from such violence against women. A strong political willpower is equally important to deal with these crimes.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that Nepal was an exemplary nation in the world to ensure gender equality by protecting women's rights. Addressing a programme organised in Kathmandu to mark the Third National Women's Rights Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Oli recalled that women of Nepal, as voters and candidates, had participated in the municipal elections held in 2008 BS right after the nation was freed from autocratic Rana oligarchy. The Prime Minister has said, "While many nations were still holding arguments about providing voting rights to women, the Nepali women were participating in elections as candidates." The government is working firmly to eliminate all kinds of violence against women. However, the country still has a long way to go in reducing gender inequality and preventing violence, rape, defamation, social evils, verbal and physical abuse against women.