Gender inequality is a widespread issue where individuals are treated unequally based on their gender. Girls and boys experience this inequality in their homes, communities, and educational settings. Mothers often bear disproportionate responsibility for household chores and caregiving. In schools, girls may receive less support than boys in pursuing their preferred studies due to discriminatory teaching practices and biased education materials, leading to gender gaps in learning and skill development. In areas where menstruation is taboo, girls lack access to essential information and supplies for their health and safety. Gender inequality is sometimes reinforced by laws and policies that deny girls their rights, such as restricting women from inheriting property. Laws and regulations that deny girls their rights, such as those that prevent women from inheriting property, can occasionally serve as a reinforcement of gender inequality. These practices are rooted in superstitious traditions. Gender inequality is a pervasive issue seen in various aspects of life, from family dynamics to education and legal systems, perpetuating harmful consequences for girls and women.
In Nepal, women face inequalities rooted in socio-cultural, economic, and religious factors that dictate traditional roles and responsibilities between men and women. Factors such as lack of education, poverty, patriarchal structures, limited awareness, and adherence to social customs contribute to this issue. Women are often confined to household duties within the boundaries of their homes due to patriarchal beliefs that have been ingrained since ancient times. Voting rights were finally granted to them after protracted efforts by the suffrage movement, far later than those for men. Their fight for equal rights has been difficult. Historically, women's livelihoods were significantly tied to their marital choices, as they were expected to raise children and manage the household while husbands were the primary decision-makers and earners. Upon marriage, women lost legal autonomy, with their property and earnings becoming the possession of their husbands. Women's representatives have spoken out in parliament, but their voices often go unheard, indicating the persistence of gender inequality in society.
Gender inequality in Nepal arises from multiple factors, including traditional beliefs, limited education, poverty, and the need for increased awareness. Women continue to face discrimination and limited rights, highlighting the ongoing struggle for gender equality. Gender inequality has deep roots in Nepali society, manifesting in various domains such as social, political, economic, traditional, and cultural spheres, often driven by superstitious and unfounded assumptions. A major contributing factor to this inequality is the lack of awareness among women about their rights and their potential to achieve equality. Gender inequality involves discriminating against individuals based on their gender, leading to one gender receiving preferential treatment over the other. Several factors perpetuate gender inequality in Nepal. Gender bias in education, disparities in agriculture, limited access to healthcare, child marriage, and other forms of gender-based violence contribute to this problem. Additionally, women and girls are underrepresented in policymaking and decision-making processes. Unfortunately, conservative circles continue to subject women to victimisation and marginalisation, further hindering progress towards gender equality. A significant area of concern is the unequal right to legal inheritance, where women lag behind men in accessing their rightful share of inheritance. Despite their representation in the parliament, no concrete solutions have been proposed to address this issue, indicating the persistence of gender disparities. Nepal has been a predominantly patriarchal society where women are deemed subordinate to men. Men are traditionally considered the leaders of families and are deemed superior to women. Biased social norms and values further reinforce these inequalities, favouring men over women. Women in Nepal face higher vulnerability to rape, domestic abuse, and human trafficking. Superstitious beliefs and taboos related to caste and menstruation lead to discriminatory treatment of women, restricting their access to basic amenities like drinking water and participation in religious activities during menstruation. This inequality affects their opportunities and prospects later in life.
Gender inequality impacts women's pay and their treatment within the legal and healthcare systems. Discrimination in accessing quality healthcare and education further contributes to the prevalence of poverty among women. Access to contraception remains challenging for many women due to various reasons, such as limited options, restricted access, and cultural or religious opposition. This leads to a significant number of unplanned pregnancies, and while some end in abortion, many women become financially dependent on others, compromising their freedom and autonomy.
In employment, gender roles often dictate job divisions, with certain high-paying jobs being seen as better suited for men. Consequently, women experience lower incomes and are burdened with primary responsibilities for unpaid labour, which goes unrecognised financially. Despite the challenges, progress is being made to improve women's positions in various sectors. The fight for gender equality continues, with efforts aimed at raising awareness, dismantling discriminatory norms, and providing equal opportunities for women in Nepal and across the world. The ongoing struggle seeks to empower women, ensure their reproductive rights, and create a more equitable society for all.
(Paudel works at a publishing house as a translator.)