Promote Human Rights And Inclusion

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As the World Social Forum (WSF) is taking place in Nepal on February 15-19, 2024, several deliberations will enquire into the civil liberties globally especially in South Asia. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the state authorities in most of the eight South Asian countries have undermined people’s democratic rights and used repressive measures to silence the people in their countries. Situation in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan seem relatively better. However, there have been steps taken to curb civil liberties of the people in these countries too. 

The last 75 years in Nepal have been a revolutionary tryst of a struggle between the authoritarian leaders and the people to institutionalise democracy. A struggle where the country has finally emerged from absolute monarchy to a federal republic, but the the lawmakers and general public still seem to be dominated by the patriarchal feudal mindset. The country has seen the fall and rise of dynasties, rewriting of the country’s constitution several times, making several progresses in promulgating laws favourable to the marginalised communities.  Implementation of the laws has been a struggle. But there are some very positive outcomes. For instance, Nepal is one of the few countries where the visitors have an option to tick a box containing “other” apart from “male” and “female” when they fill visa forms. The same option is there for citizenship, voter IDs, etc. 

Gender parity

There are also gender parity indicators showing that Nepal is climbing up the ladder. However, while summing up the state of impunity in addressing gender justice and rights of people affected in conflict or other injustices, it can be said without hesitation that the dreams of the Nepali people is yet to be realised. The path of equality and prosperity is further fraught with challenges such as climate-induced events like earthquakes, floods and change in food cultivation. Trade and economic embargoes, imposed by India, also hampered our efforts to attain economic independence. The landlocked geography and geopolitical struggle of a small nation with two giant neighbours and western power structure is an ongoing, subtle reality of the country. 

The social fabric of society consists of an indiscriminately accepted culmination of Budhhist and Brahminic Hindu which is intermingled in various festivals associated with events based on legendary anecdotes. This is a remarkable synthesis that has been achieved between two related but divergent value systems. From the only Hindu country in the world, Nepal is now a secular country where the less than four per cent Muslim, Christians and other religious communities fall under minority but say they feel safest. This harmony and culmination can be attributed to the rich prehistoric legendary traditions of the Newar indigenous community of the now Kathmandu Valley which was initially called the Nepal Mandal. 

Several kingdoms were united by Prithvi Narayan Shah to make one Nepal.  Ancient Indian classics suggest that the central Himalayan hills were closely related culturally and politically to the Gangetic Plains at least 2,500 years ago. While in the Budhdhist accounts, Lumbini, the birthplace of Sidhdhartha Gautama Buddha has prominence. The Hindu kings from high-caste started ruling over a population, majority of which were neither Indo-Aryan nor Hindu. Extensive cultural, trade and political relation were also established between Nepal and the then strong Tibet towards the north, transforming the valley from a relatively remote backwater into a major commercial centre between South Asia and Central Asia. Nepal’s contacts with China began in a continuous basis only since the late 18th century. 

This historic background has made the two giant neighbours of Nepal a key deciding factor in various socio-economic and political developments in the country even today. In integrating the peace process, Nepal again made history by having a government where the Maoists were included. Another historical and revolutionary fact of the federal Nepal is that as per the Local Election Act, two ward members or each ward needs to be women and one of them Dalit woman. For a total of 6,743 wards across the country, there will be at least 13,486 women where at least 6,743 are Dalit women. The country got first President from the Madhesi community. It also boasts of getting woman President, woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a woman Chief Justice. Therefore, it can be said that the issue of social and gender inclusion has been taken up to the political forefront. 

Justice

The relationship of Nepal with other South Asian countries has always been cordial. In today’s turbulent South Asia, Nepal is often the meeting places for South Asian level dialogues. Therefore, there are several lessons to be learnt from this small country. However, inside Nepal there is a lot to be done to make sure the freedom of press and human rights of all citizens are ensured by ending the growing rates of corruption and state of impunity on getting justice over crimes against humanity conducted in the past and currently.

Preventing the rights to protest, assemble, freedom of association, silencing dissent, curbing the freedom of the media, subordinating the judiciary are the tools used by the states to curtail civil liberties of the people. There have been several instances where curbing of right to protest, arresting of journalists who have unveiled corruption have happened. Therefore, during the WSF, it is important to explore the possibilities of all South Asian nations of working collectively by putting in place mechanisms to advocate and restore the civil liberties and democratic rights of our people in all countries.


(Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate. namrata1964@yahoo.com Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)

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