A Few Thoughts on the New Nepali Constitution

celebrating

Nepalis celebrating the adoption of the new constitution. Photo credit: http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/sep/21/nepal-formally-adopts-constitution-2015/

Nepal just signed into law a new constitution. I’m sure many of you already know the history leading up to the ratification of this historical document, but here is a brief and simplified recap:

2001: The royal massacre occurred; the king and crown prince died, and the king’s brother, Gyanendra, took over.

2008: The monarchy was overturned, and Nepal was declared a Republic

2008-2015: Politicians met many times over in an attempt to draft a new constitution.

Mid September, 2015: Nepal’s new constitution was ratified.

I’ll start by saying this: Nepali politics are very complicated, and there is so much that I don’t know. If I misstate something or write down something incorrectly, or if you just disagree with me, please tell me!

So anyway, the new constitution was just passed into law. Although this should be a time for rejoicing, many people in Nepal are upset because there are several HUGE issues that the constitution does not address. From what I understand, here are two of the major ones:

  • The southern plains of Nepal (the Terai) are underrepresented in the government. As far as I understand, the Nepali constitution split up the country into provinces that elect officials to represent them. Rather than allow the Terai to be one province, it was split up and added onto other provinces. Some believe that this was done in order to prevent the people living in the Terai from gaining too much political power.
  • The Nepali constitution does not recognize a woman’s right to confer citizenship to her child if the father of her child is not a citizen.

Here’s a nice video that outlines both of these issues more thoroughly.

Although I cannot personally speak to the first issue, the second issue, about women, hits a bit closer to home for me. The idea that a woman cannot give her own child citizenship is ridiculous. Tri is married to me (a foreign woman). Why should he be allowed to confer Nepali citizenship to any child that we have when a woman in the same situation cannot?

From what I understand, the reactions to these issues have been varied. Some accept the constitution and feel overjoyed that it has been ratified. But there have been many protests, some that have ended in violence. In the Terai, at least 40 people have died while protesting. I am demoralized and disgusted by reports of police brutality. One Nepali author who lives in Canada wrote a piece about why she burnt the new Nepali constitution. 

I recognize that I am not Nepali and never will be. I don’t understand the Nepali experience or the experience of women in Nepal. But I am more than a tourist or a visitor. I am part of a Nepali family that has been deeply affected by the struggles in Nepal, so I share my thoughts on the subject openly but with care.

Protesting

A man protesting. Photo credit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34280015

Nepal has gone through years of violence, bandhas, and politicians that have struggled to provide for the Nepali people. Despite the issues with the new constitution, maybe this is a turning point for Nepal. Yes, let’s keep yearning for a better Nepal, one that provides for all of its citizens equally, but let’s accept this new constitution. Rather than fight violently against it or burn it, let’s challenge it peacefully. Write articles, protest peacefully, continue to champion the rights of women, all ethnicities, and all religions. Let’s work to amend the constitution and speak out against problems with it.

I think that the article about burning the constitution affected me quite deeply. I understand the author’s frustration at the new constitution. However, not only is burning something often an act of violence, burning the entire constitution ignores some of the great, new things that it has set into law. For instance, the new Nepali constitution protects the rights of members of the LGBT community.

Some of my opinions might be controversial, and I certainly don’t understand all of the facets of this incredibly complex issue. What do you think?

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