Thursday, January 23, 2014

How far are minority groups treated fairly in your society?

I live in a Nepalese society which encompasses the people of several caste, creed, culture and religion living peacefully. Yet, there are significant challenges lying ahead of us in addressing the issues of several minority groups. There are about 22 untouchable groups, 60 indigenous inhabitants, gender based minority like the single women, various religious minorities, and sexual minorities like lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) groups. Providing fair and just treatment to these minorities remains a genuine issue in my society.

Status of single women, who lost their husbands during the civil war, with regards to their access to employment, economic resources, political power, and personal autonomy in decision making is generally weak. Owing to gender based discriminations of a patriarchal society, their freedom is compromised in the society. Apart from that, such women are accused of social evils like witchcrafts, and causing bad luck especially when something goes wrong during ceremonies and auspicious occasions. They are socially mistreated in such cases, mainly because of their weaker family and economic condition.

'Caste-based’ untouchability and discrimination still prevails in most of the societies. The discrimination is more blatant and extreme in the rural areas, mainly due to lack of education, awareness and thin population. The untouchable groups have been lagging behind in social, economic, educational, political and religious sphere and deprived of human dignity and social justice. The so-called high caste people don't allow the people of lower castes to enter into their home, don't eat and drink anything touched by them, and discriminate them in every possible ways. This deprives them of very basic human rights. Moreover, the lower caste people are generally poor which has limited their access to education and employment. Therefore, it is a big challenge to uplift their economic and social status. In some societies, the people of so-called higher castes even compel them to work as a servant without any payment or return.

Similarly, the status of LGBT in Nepal is also miserable. They have to face widespread social harassment almost everywhere including their home, neighbourhood, school, and workplace. In December, 2012 Blue Diamond Society, the national LGBT umbrella organization, asked the inspector-general of the Nepal Police to investigate threats against LGBT groups, including threatening phone calls and being followed at night. However, such threats and intimidations have neither been investigated nor punished. This impunity has contributed to a climate of fear among LGBT people and activists in Nepal and has hampered vital activities, including HIV prevention work. Many have been unable to congregate in public, conduct HIV prevention activities, or express their views freely as they are considered taboo. Also, despite a 2007 Supreme Court verdict, which asked the government to provide equal rights to the LGBT community they still face problems in getting jobs, citizenship certificates or to open bank accounts due to government inaction.

It's the basic right of the minority to be treated well and get justice. However, because of orthodox social framework, most of the minorities have problems in getting access to their rights. Some minority groups of Nepal have revolted for their rights which are partly heard. However, some groups put forth irrational demands. For instance, Tharus, one of the minority groups of Terai, conducted a nationwide strike from February to March, 2009 demanding that all the higher government post of their region should be sanctioned to them. Such activities reflect the misuse of right to stage protests, and thereby defame the genuine protests.

In conclusion, the treatment of minority groups in our society is not satisfactory and just. Much of the problem lies in our social framework, low level of awareness, rigid mindset, and the like which cannot be changed overnight. It should be noted that Nepal is ahead of the neighbouring countries, including India, in granting rights to the LGBT groups legally, although the implementation aspect has not been much effective due to political instability and deeply-rooted socio-cultural barriers. Whether it is because of social inflexibility or government inaction, the minority groups have not received fair treatment in my society.

Author: Sandesh Prasain
The author is an Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level student at British Model College, Thapathali, Kathmandu.

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