Â Kathmandu, 24th December,2014 : As January 22, 2014, the day for constitution delivery, is drawing closer, the Dalits here are actively raising their voice through discussion and interaction to ensure their basic rights, including the right to political
participation and representation in the new constitution.
The Dalits are a socially marginalized class of people who are considered to be the lowest in the social and ritual class of people among Hindus.
Their political representation, especially of the Dalit Women, is very negligible.
The population of women is around 51.5 per cent of the total population of the country where the number of Dalit women stands at 20 per cent.
Likewise, the Dalit population in Nepal accounts for 14 percent of the total population where the number of Dalit women is half this population.
Although many political upheavals and struggles have led the country to the republican system, yet no remarkable feat has been achieved in respect to the Dalit and Dalit women’s empowerment.
If we look at the political representation of the Dalit and the Dalit Women in the government and governmental bodies, namely in the Interim Parliament formed after the People’s Movement in 2006/7, 18 Dalits member of legislature parliament were elected, of which only 6 were women, for the first time in the modern political history of Nepal.
Similarly, among the 601 Constituent Assembly (CA) members elected in the first Constituent Assembly in 2008, the legislature parliament saw only 50 Dalit CA members among which 24 were women.
The first CA election provided the platform for the Dalit women to represent their community at the top political hierarchy as Kalawati Pashwan and Ramani Ram, the two Dalit women, got the record-setting opportunity to minister- Pashwan as the Assistant Minister for Physical Planning and Works, and Ram as the Minister of State for Irrigation.
Unfortunately, besides Pashwan and Ram, no Dalit woman could represent in the Council of Ministers as a full minister.
Durga Shob, the Chairperson of the Federation of Dalit Women, Nepal in view of negligible political representation of the Dalit women, opined that the political parties in Nepal are not so generous in encouraging Dalit women for their political participation.
Shob further argued that not only Dalit women lag behind in political, social and economical fronts but also they are most stigmatized in the name of witchery, dowry, and other forms of violence.
Furthermore, the second CA election also could not lift the number of Dalit CA members, more so with Dalit women as out of 601 elected CA members, only 172 women were elected as CA member, out of which the Dalit women were only 22.
The Dalit Women Rights activists argue that out of 33 per cent of the seats reserved for women in the Legislature-Parliament, 13 percent of the seats were demanded to be allocated for the Dalit women; but the figures above show that it has not been translated into action.
Anjana Bishankha, a woman leader from UCPN (Maoist), lamented that recently formed Council of Ministers could not ensure the representation of the Dalit.
She asserted that the insignificant representation of the Dalit women in the CA owes to the non-Dalit representation under the proportional representation system which was to ensure the equal participation of the representative of the indigenous, women, Dalit and marginalized groups through the reservation.
Jivan Pariyar, the Dalit CA member from Nepali Congress, opines that a separate constituency should be demarcated for the Dalit political parties to ensure the equal representation of the Dalit women.
Teku Nepali, a woman leader from CPN (UML) underscored the need for both the Dalit women and non-Dalit women should struggle untied to ensure their equal participation at the social, economical and political forefront.