Prof. Dr. Shanta Thapalia, Founder, Legal Aid and Consultancy Center
Prof. Dr. Shanta Thapalia is born in Taplejung on Jan 01, 1942. She is the first woman in
She has to her credit several publications concerning Family Laws, property rights of women and women related issues in
Dr. Thapaliya: A person (woman) irrespective of his/her age, sex, caste, race, religion and creed must be able to enjoy freedoms, full human rights and peace in the society. He/she must have the right to justice. He/she must be able to live as a dignified human being. The right to freedoms, human rights, peace and justice are basic ideals for human dignity
In order to put these ideals into practice, the United Nations identified areas, which directly affected the status of women - especially women's status starting from her home to the neighbourhood, society, community and nation as a whole. This also included the socio-cultural influences and variables interacting with women - influences upon the illiterate and well-educated women, problems faced by the professional women in administrative, technical, judicial, legal sectors and completion in male-dominated finance and business areas.
The lack of access to health and education, economic hardship in managing the household, long hours of un-paid domestic work, unclean, dusty and dirty work environment, frequent and unwanted child births, social injustices, superstitious beliefs and domestic violence were identified as the major causes which effected the status of women. Consequently the United Nations came up with strategies to improve the quality of women’s life starting from her childhood to a full-fledged individual member of the society. The main focus was given on right to equality, health, education and justice. The previous efforts, though well intentioned, have lacked effectiveness, precisely because they did not deal with the root cause of the problem.
The United Nations identified the empowerment of women as an important factor for achieving a sustainable peaceful and preposterous home and society. The UN launched various strategies for women’s full empowerment. The new principles and approaches like Women-in-Development (WID) Women-And-Development (WAD) and Gender-And-Development (GAD) were implemented to empower women.
The UN came up with a strong principle of WID in 1960s. It was based on welfare approach and women were to be considered as a contributory partner in the development process. The WID approach saw women as a sub-group who had to have special treatment, separately from the mainstream development processes. Even before the launching of WID programme, the necessity and importance of women’s contribution to the development of the society was recognized, since women related projects and programmes were frequently organized in
In the subsequent phases, women and development (WAD) approach was launched in 1970s, which highlighted the need to include women in policy and to address the specific needs of women. The women of different streams and walks of life were to be integrated to various aspects of development under these principles of empowerment. But this phase failed to bring the women into the mainstream of development process and the principles merely turned to be a loud cry. The women still faced same problems, experienced hardships and violation of their basic rights. The society did not change and no qualitative improvement were brought to the lives of women
In the 1980s, the Gender and Development (GAD)' approach acknowledged that women cannot be seen in isolation and that development must focus on the interactive links and relationships between men and women. The GAD principles were to be implemented with a view focusing on the gender based inequality faced by the woman folk of the country. The gendered role of men and women became the target of attack. The provisions of UN Conventions and Declaration on rights of Women provided new thoughts that women are in no way inferior to men. This principle offered a right-based approach – for example men and women must be treated equally in terms of job opportunities and enjoyment of full human rights
But, even the GAD approach proved inadequate for dealing with women's disproportionate share of the human costs of ongoing development processes. In a real world where the impoverishment and displacement of women worldwide have reached crisis proportions, piecemeal approaches are not enough. Women no longer want half-measures such as ' inclusion', 'participation' and ' integration' in a system that is fundamentally inequitable.
It is not to say that there have been no efforts to empower women. Various efforts have been put forth to empower women. However, the benefits have not been able to percolate down to the society. Many people are still not aware of women’s rights.
The status of women compared to men is different in geographical regions (rural, urban, hill, mountain, terai) of the country. There are also varying practices among different classes, castes, ethnicity, tribes, dalits etc. The status of women as a single group does not provide the ideas of all the women in the country. It is not possible to measure the status of women on one parallel line. But, the woman as a whole are trying to be empowered, wanting to know more, practicing their inborn legal rights, feeling competent with their male counterparts, wanting to occupy positions, trying to make decisions within the family etc. The Women have been able to successfully amend the national code (Muluki Ain) and establish their inheritance right to property along with their brothers. Further, they have also been successful to amend the laws relating to marriage, divorce, rape and abortion etc. For the first time, a woman was able to exercise her reproductive rights.
Although the 2001 census report reveals women to be far behind the males in terms of education, employment, in decision making positions, in land ownerships, business etc. Women still have no control over economic and physical resources and lagging behind in terms of political power. The outlook of society towards women has not been changed to the desired extent. They are still suffering from economic crisis. They are still subjected to rape, trafficking and various kinds of domestic violence. They have no access to health and the domestic workloads are still on the shoulders of women.
TGQ2: Women, as per our Hindu mythology, are considered to be a form of SHAKTI. Do you as a modern legal practitioner subscribe to this age-old view? How a girl, a woman, a widow or a single woman is taken in today’s Nepali society? The society is liberal or yet conservative?
Dr. Thapaliya: I am a modern legal practitioner, a law professor and an activist. I do believe that a women is a power in herself. When we study Hindu philosophy, we find many instances of good and positive thinking towards women. But side-by-side, we also find negative perception against women. They are subjected to inhuman superstitious and evil practices Child marriage is rooted in the society. This has devalued the importance of a woman’s dignity and deprives her human rights. She has been treated as a subordinate body of a man. She has been subjected to the hard and orthodox Brahamihical system, which blatantly impinges her human rights. Widows are deprived of their right to live with dignity. She is considered as a machine for producing children. She is always referred to as fair sex and weaker sex etc. After a long time now we are talking about the empowerment of women, in fact, women is a power.
TGQ3: International conferences on Women are being held every now and then. Have such conferences and meetings at the international level made any impact on the thinking of Nepali government specially after the restoration of the democratic order in the country? Your remarks please.
Dr. Thapaliya: In fact lots of positive and far reaching initiatives have been undertaken for empowerment of women in the country.
The Ministry of Women and Children and Social Welfare and the National Commission on Women have been formed.
National plan of action on CEDAW has been initiated. The Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2001) has accepted the women’s mainstreaming in development process. Gender and development are integrated into sector wise policy and programmes of the country Commitment has been made in the Ninth Five Year Plan to review the existing legislation on women and enact appropriate laws in accordance with the international norms.
Amendment of the Local Self-Government Act with 20% reservation for women is an affirmative action in the direction of women’s empowerment This has helped approximately 40, 000 women’s participation in the local government. Labour legislation provides maternity leave and breast-feeding break.
However the prevailing strong patriarchal culture and social system, which emphasize traditional roles of women, prove major hindrances to implement the provisions of international Conventions, Treaties and even domestic laws for the empowerment of women. The basic fault lies with the traditional outlook of society towards women.
TGQ4: A debate on whether the girls be allowed to enjoy parental property or not continued for some time in
Dr. Thapaliya: The National Code (Muluki Ain) Eleventh Amendment Act was passed in BS 2058. It took six long years for women rights and human rights activists to get this Amendment enacted. Its provisions are beginning to be implemented smoothly. Till now its impact has been very good. People have accepted the Amendment positively. They started to treat their daughters better than earlier. Parents are encouraging their daughters to have a good education too.
TGQ5: A section of Nepali media have directly challenged the inner potentials and the capabilities of Nepali women. What could have been the reason? Was it a media bias? Or in effect the women of
Dr. Thapaliya: A section of traditional Nepali media has always downplayed women’s rights in the past. In fact, they underestimated the potential of women. This was evinced during the movement for women’s property rights. This section of media always highlighted only the negative aspects of inheritance right to property. Traditions, social values, customs and the culture have accorded women a subordinate to man. The patriarchal society of