Chandrakala Bhandari

9 April, Kakarvitta (Jhapa): Women leaders in Mechinagar of Jhapa have complained of being forced to stand for the post of deputy mayor, even though they wish to compete and be elected to the post of Mayor of the municipality.

Despite the presence of women who have long contributed to the political sector by being affiliated with various parties, they are being overlooked and replaced with male candidates for the top posts.

It may be noted that the Constitution of Nepal and the local-level election Act, 2073 provides that fifty per cent of the candidates of political parties in local elections should be women, including either for the post of chair or vice-chair, mayor or deputy mayor of Rural Municipality and Municipality respectively.

Sabina Bajgain, who had been thinking of contesting for the post of mayor of Mechinagar municipality from Rastriya Prajatantra Party, was chosen as the party’s candidate for the post of deputy mayor instead. “I had been expressing my interest to stand for the post of mayor but the party decided otherwise in my absence,” she said.

RPP is not an exception though. All other parties including the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) and the main opposition CPN-UML are learnt to have decided to limit their women leaders to the post of deputy mayor.

District level leader of CPN (MC) Indira Karki shared that she had already communicated to her party that she would want to become the party’s candidate for the post of Mayor of Mechinagar. However, the names of male candidates are going around as far as the post of mayor is concerned.

Likewise, NC leader Durga Khatiwada complained that the parties had been suggesting women leaders to stand for the deputy post, despite their efficiency to lead the municipality. Accordingly, she has listed herself as one of the hopefuls for the post of deputy Mayor.

CPN-UML’s district secretariat member Meena Upreti believes that the dominance of male totalitarian thought in the party has stopped women from being chosen as the candidates for the major post of Mechinagar.

The newly formed Naya Shakti Party Central Council Member Panita Adhikari is however expecting to be nominated for the post of Mayor of Mechinagar. So far, only her name is being discussed for the same in the party.

By population, Mechinagar is the biggest municipality of Jhapa district with a total of 15 wards. However, women candidates do not feature as the probable candidate even for the post of chair of the wards.

And some women leaders are even suspicious about the male leaders conspiring against them, and making sure that loose in both the posts. “Parties could join hands discretely to nominate women candidates but stop them from winning,” Adhikari, a mayor hopeful of Naya Shakti party said.

Meanwhile, social analyst Sagar Shivakoti says that forcing women to become candidates against their will is a kind of violence against women. “The law saying candidacy in either the post of mayor or deputy mayor does not mean that women should not be given the post of mayor,” Shivakoti said.

Despite the commitments and pledges made by parties in their slogans, manifesto and statutes to empower women, the patriarchal mindset seems continues to dominate in the party’s thought and practice. RSS