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Mohna Ansari

Mohna Ansari, National Human Rights Commission, Member Commissioner | Nepal

Mohna Ansari started her career as a journalist and subsequently graduated as a lawyer, becoming the first and only Nepal’s female attorney from the Muslim community. She worked with Amnesty International Nepal, Action Aid Nepal, UNDP, IDEA International and other national organizations. In 2010, Ansari was appointed as member of the National Women Commission (NWC) of Nepal. She also served as spokesperson of the NWC and the NHRC. Ansari also took up advocacy work through media and public forums, by writing in national dailies and appearing in TV debates. Mohna Ansari overviewed the women`s leadership in the policy and decision-making mechanisms in Nepal. Ansari underlined that there is still a progress needed to increase the women`s participation in public administration. She also discusses the challenges that women have to combat to establish a future with gender equality for all.

The Beijing Summit took place in 1995, when I was a young girl. Today, after 25 years, Nepal has made notable progress in women’s rights, gender equality and social inclusion. However, the deep-rooted patriarchal norms and practice continue to undermine women’s rights of equality, self-respect and independence.

Nepal has gone through major challenges in the last two decades following a decade long conflict, a peace process which started in 2006 that transformed the country into a secular, republican, secular state. Women had a significant role in this transformation. The first elected constituent assembly in 2008, it had 197 women members out of 601 members. The second one had 176 of women. A new constitution was adopted in 2015. Nepal’s Constitution has ensured women’s representation in federal and provincial parliaments, as well as local government bodies 32 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Currently, 90 of the 275 MPs are women in the Lower House. The Upper House has 22 women members of the 59 members. Six of the 10 parliamentary committees are headed by women lawmakers.

Election Act has ensured 50 percent women candidates in leadership positions of the local boards. In 2016 local elections were elected as a deputy chair or mayor of a seven hundred local bodies of the 753, also 18 women were elected as a mayor or Chair. Based on the act, over 6500 women were elected in a local body, these are Dalit women, and we all know in South Asia that Dalits are highly oppressive caste group.

According to a 2019 survey that looked over women’s representation in the parliament, Nepal ranked second in the entire Asia. This is a significant achievement compared to 1999’s parliament, which only had 5.8 percent women in parliament. Reservation policy and electoral reform had been instrumental in promoting women’s participation in policymaking roles. In the Civil Service Act, women have 33 percent reservation of the total 45 percent inclusive quota.

The Army and Police Act has also made a reservation for women.14 However, the inclusion of the women from the socially excluded group is still a major challenge for us. Despite these positive indicators, women still face multiple challenges. None of the major political parties have a woman in decision making positions.

Therefore, selection or election of women in any higher position to remain under control of the male decision maker in their political party. The legislation ratio of women does not reflect in the mainstream appointments. When it comes about the women’s inclusion in ministerial positions, Nepal ranks at 123rd position. The constitutional principle of the inclusive appointment in the government is also frequently overlooked within the given opportunity.

In the Global Gender Gap Report of 2018, which looked at women’s participation in the economy, Nepal ranked 110th among the other 149 participating countries.16 This was that Nepalese women are discouraged from economic participation factors like their poor social status, access to information, discriminatory dangerous practices, global violence, and free access to economic opportunity. For example, the Foreign Employment Act prohibited women from seeking foreign employment and foreign domestic work without the permission of their guardian or spouse. The government introduced this recently.

Another challenge that Nepali government yet has to tackle is a protection from the violence against women. And I think it is not only Asia, it is a worldwide problem. The violence against women take place in forms of trafficking, rape, domestic violence, child marriage, and in Nepal, dowry related violence of witchcraft and harmful traditional practices such as child poverty or mistral isolation. Every year, women are dying due to the mistral isolation. The Parliament in 2017 enacted and amended various laws to end violence against women and girls and protect the survivors, such as the Domestic Violence Act, Anti Trafficking Act, the Sexual Harassment Act at Workplace.

In 2016, national strategy was adopted to end child marriage. This is a global commitment that Nepal has introduced this policy. Recently, the government has decided to increase punishment in the crime of acid attack to ensure protection of the survivor. The National Women’s Commission has established a 24-hour helpline to tackle this issue and to reconcile or provide the legal assistance through the victims. 240 Women and Children Senior Citizens Center have been expanded throughout the country. In last 10 year, I myself have work with the legislative committees, policy makers and stakeholders to amend and enact several laws related to the violence against women. However, weak implementation of the laws remains a critical challenge. Impunity prevails due to failure of proper investigation and prosecution in a serious case of the violence against women. Lack of shelter and rehabilitation, support for the victim is the major challenge.

According to our police data, filing the case against violence against women is basically coming the domestic violence and rape and attempted rape and witchcraft allegation. It is rising during the last five years. Being a state party to the CEDAW, along with the other major human rights instrument, Nepal is committed to guarantee and promote gender equality. The principle of non-discrimination and gender equality have been enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal. However, the unequal citizenship provision for women remains in violation of Article 9 of CEDAW. Let me conclude by saying that this event is taking place at a time when COVID-19 pandemic has brought an extraordinary challenge.

In conclusion, Nepal is careful not to allow the pandemic and lockdown to be an excuse for ongoing violation of women and children, women’s and girls’ rights. On the other hand, we must appreciate the luxury that this gives us to step back and think and organize, to look at our effort so far and learn from them. So, we bounce back stronger than ever when this nightmare is over. We still have the opportunity to meet 2030 SDG Goals.