Men welcome more equality for women

Greater freedom, greater responsibilities taking hold

Men welcome more equality for women
Watched by her husband, Celestina Subba gives a talk in the parish of Pokhara, in mid-western Nepal, in 2009
Chirendra Satyal, Kathmandu, Nepal

March 4, 2011

Downtrodden for so many years, women in Nepal are not only gaining more freedom and opportunities, they are also earning praise from men in what was once a traditional and patriarchal Hindu society. Vinod Gurung is a teacher and president of the Nepal Catholic Society. His wife is a migrant worker in the Holy Land. “Nepal’s economy is being saved from disaster by money sent by migrant workers; many of them women. My wife is earning more money than me and that is great encouragement for our daughter in college.” Catholic musician, George Subba, also has nothing but praise for his wife, who is the general manager of a travel agency in Kathmandu. She is dedicated to her career and considered a pioneering woman in corporate circles. She offers me lots of support and encouragement, too,” he said. This new attitude towards women has come amid recent fundamental changes in Nepal. “In the past Catholic women could have considered themselves much luckier than other Hindu women -- but Nepal’s patriarchal society has been transformed along with the political scene,” said Bhimsen Rai, chief catechist of the Vicariate of Nepal. Bhimsen Rai’s wife is president of the women’s group at Assumption Church in Kathmandu. “She’s a great organizer and a much better fundraiser than me. Though she retired last year [as a teacher at a Catholic school] she is as active as ever.” “The extended family has broken up in Nepal. In these new nuclear families the mother seems to be the head of the family,” said Dr. Rabindra Khanal, a Hindu, whose wife is a parishioner at Assumption Church. The patriarchal society is breaking up said Dr. Khanal, who is a professor in political science at the government run Tribhuwan University. He said upcoming legislation and recent court rulings highlight this transformation. “The Constituent Assembly continues to debate and formulate non-gender-biased laws to be included in the country’s new constitution,” he said. “On February 27 the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision which allowed a girl to be provided citizenship on the basis of only her mother’s citizenship. Before citizenship was dependent on the father,” he said. “This ruling can serve as a precedent for Nepalese mothers with foreign husbands to obtain citizenship for their children. Nepal’s legal system has also recently moved ahead to provide inheritance rights for women,” he added. Along with greater freedom, comes greater responsibilities, Khanal said. “Women are being appointed to more senior positions. On March 1t Nepal appointed its first female foreign minister. This followed the appointment of over a dozen women to Foreign Service posts,” he explained. NP13509.1643