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Costly patriarchy

Costly patriarchy

If there is one overarching message of our five-part APEX SeriesWomen in politics’, it is that good legislation alone does not ensure gender balance in key state organs and political decision-making bodies. Perhaps it’s a matter of time. The sea-change brought about by the 2006 movement for democracy was rather abrupt. For one, it was difficult for Nepalis to get used to a country without the monarchy, which had been around for nearly 250 years. Nor did our politicians and legislators know what to do with their newfound powers after the transfer of complete sovereignty to the people.


Post-2006, women’s representation in state organs shot up dramatically. First the interim constitution (2007) and then the new constitution (2015) guaranteed at least 33 percent representation of women in state legislatures and in political parties’ key decision-making bodies. Nepal’s legislature suddenly became among the most inclusive in the world. Perhaps women’s lead role in the Maoist rebellion had a big hand in changing the perception that women should be confined to their homes. Yet after the Maoists were brought into the political mainstream, the male political leaders who controlled the national polity were still reluctant to see women in leadership roles.


As a result, whether in political parties’ decision-making bodies, or in state institutions, or in local elected bodies, women got secondary roles as deputies to men. Or they were excluded outright: all four of our national parties are illegitimate as they don’t have the mandatory 33 percent women’s participation in party organs. Time may change this imbalance. But given the entrenched patriarchy, it may not.  


What will work better is sustained pressure on our politicians and legislators to continue to make the country more inclusive and fairer. Women’s participation has been shown to contribute to better institutional decision-making, and even to peace and social harmony. If we are to thrive as a country, and to attain the double-digit growth the prime minister likes to dream about, women’s greater participation is mandatory. The most prosperous countries like Norway and Switzerland are also the most gender-inclusive, while poor and unstable ones like Afghanistan and South Sudan are among the most hostile to women. That gender equality brings peace and prosperity is no wild theory. It is now solid science.