Women movement is defined as a broad campaigning women’s liberation and rights with respect to men. During Rana regime, Nepali women were excluded, dominated by multiple forms of gender inequalities with deprived of basic fundamental human rights. They were oriented by patriarchal norms, traditional practices, and discriminated by Muluki Ain (1854) ( FWLD, 2006). There was no equality in terms of rights and opportunities between men and women.Their participation and access to the socio-political and economic opportunity compared to men was negligible (Asian Development Bank, 1999). With aspiration of achieving gender equality and empowering women with respect to men and state, women movement started in Nepal with the struggle of democracy against Rana regime in 1940s (Tamang, 2009). Nepal Women Association, established in 1947was the first organization to initiate the Nepali women movement. The movement heightened in progressive manner, supported by international agencies and non- state actors. Women rights were liberated, uplifted and role was empowered in the society and state, safeguarded by various reformed acts with transformation of modern Nepal.
Nepali women shares the praiseworthy contribution in the political transformation of Nepal. Also, their movement was guided by the political objectives too. In pro-democracy era, women from political elites realized that they were under represented at mainstream politics and parliament. All Nepal Women Association , Mahila Akhil Sangha and Nepal Women Association together launched ‘Satyagraha’ peacefully for political representation in high offices ( (Khanal, 1986). Addressing to this movement four women were nominated in Advisory Assembly. Panchayat era marked with oppressive, autocratic regime and graded inequalities (Khadka, 1986). Further, women movement got divided into different mainstream politics. However, they supported agitation against partyless panchayat system in 1990 with an aspirations to abolish the caste based discriminations. The adopted constitution limited reservation of women by five percent on lower house and minimum three of the 60 nominated upper house.Even though 1990s constitution safeguarded fundamental rights to all citizens without discriminations on the basis of ethnicity, caste, religion or sex, yet social discriminatory practices heightened class struggle. Large number of excluded women and marginalized groups launched the agitation against ‘the patriarchal discrimination against women’. Maoist used them as a tool leading ten years long armed conflict followed by April Uprising in 2006 ( (Mishra, 2004). It ended with comprehensive peace agreement and adopted Interim Constitution 2007. It was gender responsive. Gender discriminations was abolished completely and adopted secularism with inclusive society. Provision guarantees 33 percent representation of women in state bodies and civil service (Kolas, 2016). Nepal’s first female president and speaker of parliament are the instances depicting women’s political recognition and participation.
Interim Constitution 1951 safeguarded the basic rights like education for girls, voting rights, widow marriage. But couldn’t address the issues of gender equality against the patriarchal governing society and traditional practices. Traditional practices like untouchability, early marriage, child marriage, polygamy, dowry system, Deuki Pratha, witch hunt, badi and jhuma dominated women’s social participation and poor fulfillment of human rights.Movements were organized against to end such practices in different period of time. Addressing to it, untouchability was abolished in 1962, Deuki Pratha in 1990 (Yogi, 2012). However, many traditional practices were governed by caste system preserved by constitutions. Further, women were discriminated from inheritance rights, citizen rights, reproductive rights, criminal justice, employment, as well as exploited through trafficking and sexual violence,and child abuse (Geiser, 2005). Thus, women were suppressed and movement were directed with those agendas. In 1975 coding ‘International women year’, Nepal ensured partition share of the parental property to unmarried daughter above 35 years of age, divorce right to maintenance and end polygamy.After post conflict women movement more expanded. Sexual violence movement from 2006 onwards, Badi movement in 2007 (United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator’s Office, 2012) advocated on identities and women security. Responding to it, caste based discriminations was abolished, recognizes inheritance and property rights, citizenship rights along with legalizes the abortion in 2011 were major constitutional amendment addressing them (Kolas, 2016).
After 1990s, international actors like UN agencies, various NGOs fueled the Nepali women agendas through technical and financial support. Addition to it, Nepal became the signatory state of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against women in 1992. Further, Nepal adopted 1995 Beijing declaration which provided impetus for women’s right and gender equality. At governmental level, sixth five year plan (1980-1985), ninth five year plan (1997-2002) followed by tenth five year plan (2002-2007) were launched for women empowerment. In 2002, the National Women Commission was established to ensure women rights and advance women. After post conflict, the Three year Interim plan (2007-2010) and the National Development strategy (2009/10-2011/12) and latest 14th plan (2016/17-2018/19), were executed to promote the institutional capacity and approaches to address the identified challenges (Asian Development Bank, 2010). Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare replaced Ministry of women and social welfare established in 1995.
On conclusion, though Nepali women movement have paved the success stories, yet they still needs to forward movement into wider social movements. Their representation needs to be more inclusive with broader agendas of identity and participation. Women activist are critiqued upon the fragmentation into mainstream politics and elite based rather they needs to focus on ending the multiple forms of inter-sectional discrimination. Their movement must be engaged in promoting the women’s right through reservation and quotas at grass root level and promote alliance building and solidarity network.
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