This post is about women’s status in Nepal. Nepal has more 26 million populations. Women constitute more than half of the population in Nepal and we think the female population of Nepal is among the highest in Asia. As we all know that Nepal is one of the least developed countries in the world.
Status and Role of women in Hinduism and Buddhism religion
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the status and role of women are not only high but also very respectful. so in Nepal, status and role of Nepalese women are not only high but also very respectful. She is credited with this rank because ‘Self’ found no delight without her. The very story of creation among the Hindus mentions that she was born within herself as a part which should remain in union with another half. This concept of the union of the two magnetic opposites, i.e. male and female principles. The complimentary forces are regarded as positive and negative charges. Without the female partner, the bliss of being one and state of beatitude in the union can not be obtained.
In Hinduism love and romance also began with the union of the primary couple Yama and Yami who were the first progenitors of the human race. The Rigveda also testified to the fact that Yama and Yami were the offspring of heavenly Gandharvas (celestial musicians) or were created by Brahma. As there was nobody else to perpetuate the race, Yami earnestly requested Yama to become her husband.
It is also described that four ideals i.e.kama (pleasure), dharma (religion), Artha (wealth) and moksha (salvation) can be achieved by every person and for attaining them it is obligatory for a man to have the company of a woman. Women have also been brought to bear in various practices of Yoga and Tantric rites.
Love has its origin only in the association of a woman. Poets and scholars have gloriously described the ineffable sentiments of lovers and the enchanting beauty of a woman, her youth, and her artistic body. The female force is strong and important as it provides a base for creating force and forms an organic component of the cosmic concept of living.
The concept of supreme divinity lies in the woman, the mother, and the womb. The Tantras also advocate that Kameshwara, the lord of sex should be worshipped seated with her consort. The Tantras also describe that the main companion of attraction (Krishna) is a success (Radha), his childhood companion. Rail is symbolically success or achievement. According to the Saktisangama Tantra, “A woman is the creator of the universe and the universe is her form. A woman is the foundation of the world. She is the true form of the body. A woman is the supreme form of all things. There is no jewel rarer than a woman. There have never been nor will there ever be a destiny equal to that of a woman. There is no kingdom or destination to be compared with a woman.”
Status and role of women in Nepal
In Nepal, females are worshipped as living goddesses. There are hosts of goddesses both in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Tantrism that are worshipped by Nepalese. This view is so much emphasized in this country that the law prohibits even the sacrifice of female animals.
In Nepal, women are regarded as earthly manifestations of Kali, the Queen of Gods and Goddesses. The Agama Tantra favours both sexes equally and makes no distinction between men and women, or even between respectable women and prostitutes as all women are made equal.
Tantric hold women in great esteem and call them Shakti, the power and to ill-treat Shakti or women is considered to be a cardinal sin. This is also the version of epics.
Thus, culturally the picture of women in Nepal is quite favourable. However, the socio-economic status of women is also to be considered which counteracts the cultural background there is.
Some facts about Nepal related to women
No doubt the socio-economic condition in the medieval period of Nepal was very bad. Conditions have greatly improved in modern Nepal. However, the literacy rate among women (2001) was 42.8% while in the male it was 65.5% as against the average 54.1%.
Considering some parameters pertaining to Nepalese women, the mortality rate was about 41 years while national average mortality rate was 45.5 years. Infant mortality rate estimated in 2004 was 64.4 per 1000 live births.
Life expectancy for a female is 62.50 years while for a male it is 61.76 years while average life expectancy at birth is 62.20 years. The total fertility rate of children per women of 15-49 years age is 4.1.
Statistics data shows that women are subject to both unemployment and underemployment. The majority of the women are self-employed. The total unemployment rate in the female is 9.2% while in the male is 7.0% while total employment rate is 8.1 %.
Economic condition of Nepalese women
Economically, women are weak and subjected to low paying and unskilled job. Economically active aged 10 and above male are 71.7% while females are 43.4%.
Household work i.e. rearing of children is not recognized as any significant job socially and economically.
For economic development, it is essential to entail the removal of wage discrimination, the creation of new employment opportunities, acceptance of women’s right to property, rights over children, alimony, divorce rules, recognition of household jobs as direct contributions to the economy. Besides the general development of women, their health, nutrition, fertility and life expectancy are other factors to be looked into.
The condition of rural women in Nepal
The condition of rural women in Nepal is very pathetic. In rural areas, child marriages are still prevalent. The percentage of literacy among women in rural areas is almost negligible. The population growth results in the hazards of the health of the mother and the child. Women are considered inferior to men in various ethnic groups. The condition as a whole of rural women is more critical than their counterparts in the urban society where there is more consciousness among women as regards their social and legal rights. However, in urban Nepalese women also there is a big gap between the status they enjoy in theory and in practice. Social attitudes, restrictions on mobility and lack of independent status are quite evident in urban women also.
It has now been fully realized that the lower status of women hampers the growth of human beings. The status of Nepali women is legally strong but institutionally weak. However, in the present day challenges, equal participation of both men and women is absolutely essential and its importance is being gradually realised by more and more people in the country.
In this context, it is high time for institutional reforms in the status of women for all-round development. It requires changes in traditional attitudes.
Role of women for the developing the nation
History also has played an important role in the status of women in Nepal. During the Rana regime, the status of women was lower than that of men, both in family and society. However, the new set up was very much in favour of women. The social and economic position of women was greatly augmented by various plans and programmes, institution and social reforms. This is also responsible for uplifting the status of women in Nepal even by means of reforms in the constitution through the promulgation of favourable civil codes. Modern elves of Nepal are in a better position in all fields either social or economic. They are well-placed owing to various legal and social measures adopted a few decades ago. Still owing to the lack of proper education, knowledge, and ignorance the condition has not improved to that extent. Visualising the national development plans, in all the development plans there is no specific allusion for women. As already said, the condition of rural women is still very much as it was earlier.
After being the state party to Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination enforced on September 3, 1981, sufficient efforts have been introduced to protect and promote women’s human rights. Nepalese socio-cultural beliefs, rural poverty, traditional barrier, lack of resources and realization of women’s rights are major constraints in implementing the provisions to enhance the status of women and secure women’s human right.
However, there is need of efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women either created by societies, tradition, and beliefs or statutory law and administrative~po+feies to empower woman and brought them into the mainstream of development.
In Nepal, there is a great scope for studies about women, especially the village women of various ethnic groups, and their socio-economic conditions.
Let’s turn into the another part of Coin about current condition and situation of Women’s Human Rights in Nepal.