Nepal: women human rights defenders as political actors

Aug 29, 2017 | News

Today, the ICJ concluded its Regional Conference on Women Human Rights Defenders as Political Actors, which gathered in Kathmandu women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from all over Nepal who were recently elected during the local elections in May 2017.

They were joined by Bushra Gohar, a former Member of Parliament in Pakistan, Ahmed Naaif of the Maldivian Democracy Network, and Sherene Xavier, a filmmaker and WHRD from Sri Lanka.

The discussions focused on how the newly-elected WHRDs can continue to advance human rights in their new roles as elected officials.

Under Nepal’s Local Level Election Act 2017, political parties are required to field female candidates for half of the executive posts (mayor/deputy mayor) and at least 40% for membership at the local community councils.

In May 2017, during the first local election held in the country in almost 20 years, approximately 20,000 women stood for elections, including WHRDs.

Most of the women candidates, however, were fielded by the political parties for the deputy mayor posts. At least 92% of the candidates fielded for the mayoral posts were men.

The discussions during the two-day conference (28-29 August 2017) focused on how these affirmative measures should be utilized by women human rights defenders in Nepal to advance equal participation of women in public affairs and further their advocacy for human rights.

There was some caution expressed by some of the women that these measures may reinforce the already disadvantaged place women hold in public life and may also be viewed as tokenism.

Participants in the conference discussed as well how as WHRDs, they would need to deal with human rights abuses allegedly committed by their political parties against women.

The need for WHRDs in politics to have their own support system was also emphasized during the conference.

The participants of the conference ran under the banner of various political parties in Nepal.

The National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders of Nepal collaborated with ICJ in organizing the conference.

The conference was opened with a keynote speech from Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla of the Supreme Court of Nepal, who spoke about the challenging path women politicians face.

Former Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha, Commissioner of the ICJ, chaired the opening ceremonies.

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