Namrata Sharma's Message Marking 75th Anniversary of International Human Rights Day

Dec 01, 2023
By Namrata Sharma

75 years of Nepal –  Lots to Learn From and Lots to Improve  

The last 75 years in Nepal has been a revolutionary tryst of a struggle between the monarchy and the people to institutionalise democracy in the country. A struggle through which  the country has finally emerged from an absolute monarchy to a Federal Republic, but the mindset of the lawmakers and general public still seem to be dominated by the patriarchal feudal thinking. During the last eight decades the country has seen the fall and rise of dynasties, rewriting of the country’s constitution several times and progress in promulgating laws favourable to both  marginalised communities and the addressing  gender disparities.  However implementation of the laws has been a struggle. But there are some very positive outcomes like Nepal is one of the few countries on earth where, when entering the country, the option of “other” is there apart from “male” and “female” when visitors fill visa forms. The same option is there for citizenship, voter IDs etc. There are also gender parity indicators showing that Nepal is climbing up the ladder. However, while summing up the state of impunity in addressing gender justice and rights of people affected in civil wars or other injustices, it can be said without hesitation that the dreams of the Nepali people in a federal Republic is yet to be realised. This passage from monarchy to a federal republic  has had to confront further challenges such as the impact of climate change through earthquakes, floods, change in food cultivation patterns. Nepal has also had to cope with trade and economic embargoes imposed by India. The landlocked geography and geopolitical struggle of a small nation with two giant neighbours and a western power structure is an ongoing reality of the country.


Nepal is located between India in the East, South and West with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the North.  Historically Nepal was under the rule of hereditary Prime Ministers favouring a policy of isolation and thus remained closed to the outside world until a palace revolt in 1950 leading to the restoration of the crown’s authority in 1951. Much later in 2008, after a ten-years long period of civil violence impelled by  a strong Maoist insurgency, the Monarchy was dissolved and Nepal is since then a Federal Democratic Republic. This revolution has also enabled the highlighting of  the issues of the Madhesi community along the southern border. 

The social fabric of Nepal consists of an indiscriminately accepted mixing  of Buddhist and Brahminic Hindu religions  which is intermingled in various festivals, events and legends. This is a remarkable synthesis that has been achieved in Nepal between two related but divergent value systems. From the only Hindu country in the world,  Nepal is now a secular country where the less than four percent Muslim, Christians and other religious communities are minorities but feel safe. This harmony can be attributed to the rich prehistoric legendary traditions of the Newar Indigenous community of the now Kathmandu Valley which was initially called the Nepal valley. Several kingdoms were united by Prithvi Narayan Shah to make one Nepal.  Ancient Indian classics suggest that the Central Himalayan hills were closely related culturally and politically to the Gangetic Plains at least 2,500 years ago. While in the Buddhist accounts Lumbini, the birth place of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha has prominence. The Hindu kings from high-caste Indian origin started ruling over a population, majority of which were neither Indo-Aryan nor Hindu.  

This historic background has made the two giant neighbours of Nepal a key deciding factor in various socio-economic and political developments in the country even today.

Nepal is unique as it was never colonised. The Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-1816 ended with British Victory. The British annexed several parts of Nepal into India with a Sugauli Treaty put in place in 1816.  They also created the Gorkha Regiment which still continues to be an integral part of British and now the  Indian Army. After the British withdrawal from India in 1947 a series of revolts was launched in Nepal against the Rana regime ruling then, in association of the Shah dynasty and the people of Nepal led by the Nepali Congress which was initiated by Nepalese residents in India who were witness to the Indian Nationalist movement. After that the political relation with Nepal is determined by the treaty of 1950 between the two countries. Nepal and India have a special relation of sharing not only social, cultural relationships but also an open border of about 1,880 km.

Since 1950 and now Nepal has had a series of political uprisings led by political parties which had seeds attached with the Congress and the left movement of India. The first constitution was formed in 1959 but since then democracy was under the siege by the Shah dynasty which was ended by establishing a constitutional monarchy in 1990. It was then that  a multiparty democracy was established and freedom of speech was established for the first time. It also led to the mushrooming of vibrant media houses with a diversity of voices, flourishing in  the newly democratic climate. The decade of 1990 and most of the early part of 2000 saw Nepal being affected by the Maoist insurgency. A  stable government could not be put in place. The constitutional monarchy was disturbed by the royal massacre in 2001 leading to the intensification of the Maoist revolt and finally ending monarchy and establishing Nepal as a Federal Republic in 2008.

In initiating the peace process in the country Nepal again made history by having a government where the Maoists were included. Another historical and revolutionary fact of the federal Nepal is that  under  the Local Election Act two ward members or each ward needs to be women and one of them a  Dalit woman. For a total of 6,743 wards across the country there will be at least 13,486 women where at least 6,743 are Dalit women. Election commission also mandates 40.4% of total nominees to be women including a rule mandating that the chief and deputy chief nominations put forth by each political party in each local unit achieve gender parity. 

Thereafter,  the first local elections held in Nepal in 2017 resulted in putting one woman in the top two positions in every level of the municipalities and wards. This percentage has been recorded as highest in South Asia and globally too.  In the second 2022 National elections the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament remains 33.09 percent which is in line with constitutional provision. In the 2022 elections the total percent of women elected in local levels is 41.21% vs 40.9% in 2017. The first President of Nepal was from the Madhesi community, Nepal has had a woman President, Woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a Woman Chief Justice. Therefore it can be said that  gender inclusion has been taken up-to the political forefront.

The relationship of Nepal with other South Asian countries has always been cordial. In today’s turbulent South Asia, Nepal is often the meeting place for South Asian level dialogues. Therefore, there are several lessons to be learnt from this small country sandwiched between India and China. However, inside Nepal there is a lot to be done to make sure the freedom of press and human rights of all citizens are ensured by ending the growing rates of corruption and state of impunity, on getting justice over crimes against humanity conducted in the past and currently.

Namrata Sharma, senior Journalist, Nepal