Perpetuating patriarchy in Nepal

Treating women as second-class citizens makes them more vulnerable to violence and rape
COMMENT
Deepti Gurung
September 3, 2018
TWITTER

There is growing public outrage about the recent rise in reported rape cases across the country. The victims of these appalling crimes can be the elderly or babies, and the daily headlines numb us with their cruelty. 

What is even more shocking is that these are just what is reported to the police, there are many times more which we will never know about: physical abuse, mental torture, threats, molestation, harrassment in the workplace, incest. 

Women have to bear the insults silently: being told they are dumb, stupid, good for nothing. But rage against rape has exploded on social media. The most important change that is needed is in the mindset of Nepal’s men, who use arguments like nationalism and social harmony to perpetuate patriarchy.

Read also: Nepal’s suffragette moment, Om Astha Rai

Recently, a photograph on social media showed an activist who had pinned a slogan on her back that read in Nepali: ‘Our father is the rapist of our mother’. It was intended to highlight the plight of single mothers trying to get citizenship for their children

That is when the trolling began. The pundits were outraged that women were so outspoken, and the backlash was unrelenting. Women activists were at the receiving end of vitriolic comments accusing them of being “dollarbadi” and trying to turn Nepal into Fiji. That particular accusation has to do with the xenophobic paranoia that Indian men are lining up to marry Nepali women so they can gain Nepali citizenship. 

Read also: Statewomanship, Editorial

Photo: GOPEN RAI

My own support for the defence of women’s rights and citizenship through the mother has been greeted with widespread personal attacks. This virtual abuse in cyberspace is an extension of the physical and verbal abuse that Nepali women face every day. The attackers do not even need to hide behind an anonymous account, they are brazen and open — as if misogyny is socially sanctioned and is nothing to be ashamed about.

Women can be crushed, smashed and ripped off their dignity, rights and independence without any repercussions to the perpetrators. To survive in this society women either become submissive, and learn not to rock the boat. Or, they fight back. 

If a wife is facing abuse from in-laws, she is blamed for the trouble. Even if she is married by the choice of her parents, and the in-laws and husband treat her badly, there is no support from her own parents who fear the social stigma. 

When I made a birth registration for my daughters after supreme court’s verdict, Ward secretary filled our ‘Daughter of’ with ‘Mr Thegan Nabhaeko’ (Unknown father). I asked why I couldn’t put my father’s name as my daughter’s grandfather and I was told that officially grandfathers can only be from the father’s side, and have no connection with the mother’s parents. 

I have seen a son’s endorsement for his mother to acquire a citizenship at the age of 60 to be very easy — in order that the sons could enjoy the elderly pension from their mother. However another 60-year-old mother was denied citizenship for her grown up, educated and able sons after her husband committed suicide. She was mocked by the CDO, calling her Mother Mary who could give birth without a father, and humiliated. 

The recent revisions in the Muluki Ain state that to acquire citizenship through the mother, she has to present detailed information about why it cannot be through the  father, and for her explain why she does not know who the father is. This provision is now being challenged by MP Binda Pandey in Parliament.

The argument of last resort about why women should not have the right to confer citizenship to children, usually pertains to national security. If you think it is the open border that allows Indians to swarm across to wed our women, then close the border. 

Men and women who have married across the border can easily be prevented from getting double citizenship through bilateral negotiations. India can do the same with the people who have citizenship of Nepal. Let us agree to a point where both countries will have equal benefits by sharing a strict rules. 

It is only when women are treated equally in law and practice that men will think twice about inflicting harm on them.

A country where the state itself denies the identity of women makes them vulnerable to abuse and rape. The state’s policy has been first seek permission from a male member of the family to find out if a women is eligible for migration. This is not empowering women, it is enslaving them.

Read also: 

#Citizenshipthroughmothers, Tsering Dolker Gurung

The right to have rights, Sangita Thebe-Limbu 

OUTRAGE OVER OUTRAGE

A selection of Twitter posts from the debate generated by the image of an activist carrying the slogan: ‘My mother’s rapist was my father’ at a demonstration against the Citizenship Bill that was criticised for being discriminatory towards women. Many activists started adding ‘Dosro Darja’ (second Class) to their Twitter handles: 

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