Nepal bans dowry, caste-based discrimination
Taking strict note of dowry-related violence and caste-based discrimination faced by dalits, Nepal’s prime minister Prachanda has made such practices criminal offence under the country's law. The move comes amidst growing discontent over the government’s performance to win public support.
Kathmandu, Nepal: Nepal's prime minister Prachanda on Sunday banned the dowry system and criminalised caste-based discrimination in a bid to win public support for his faltering government.
In a thirty-minute national televised address, the prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over his government's performance and called on all parties to forge a new political understanding.
"I would like to appeal to all the political parties to come forward for a new political consensus to build a peaceful and prosperous Nepal," said Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
The former rebel chief, whose nom-de-guerre means "the Fierce One", took charge of the country after the constituent assembly abolished the unpopular monarchy last year.
The prime minister announced plans to abolish the dowry system and banned caste-based discrimination, in keeping with his election pledge to transform Nepalese society.
Recent months have seen an upsurge in reported dowry-related violence against women in Nepal's far-flung districts.
"A week from today, (the) dowry system will be completely banned. (Those) who give or take dowry will be severely punished as by the law," he said.
Prachanda also announced a ban on caste-based discrimination, calling it "inhuman".
Those who faced discrimination were "the most oppressed in the country,' he said, describing the caste system as "a national shame."
The dalit (untouchable caste) community accounts for 14%t of the total 27 million population in Nepal.
Reports of discrimination against the community in rural areas are frequent and include bans on worshipping at some Hindu temples or drinking from public water taps or wells.
"Untouchability is a heinous social crime and stern actions will be taken against the offenders by amending the law if necessary," the former rebel leader said.
Prachanda's statement comes amid growing public frustration at the poor performance of the government.
In his address he admitted that he had struggled to deliver on earlier promises of reform.
"We had no experience of running the government and we had limitations and complexities because the coalition government included parties of different ideologies and preferences," said Prachanda.
"I accept that the government's work progress has not been at par with people's wishes," he said.
Prachanda became Nepal's top politician last year after a remarkable climb to power for a man who until a 2006 peace deal was the nation's most wanted man, leading a decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed at least 13,000 lives.
The Maoists scored a landslide victory in an April 2008 election after promising to radically change the caste-ridden, impoverished Himalayan nation.
Since the Maoists' ascension to power, the country has been mired with multiple problems including ethnic tensions, lack of security and a national power crisis.
Nepal abolished the 240-year old monarchy in May last year.