Britain-Nepal Academic Council

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Legal Pluralism, Cultural Contestation and Gender (In)justice: An Interpretation of Womenʼs Rights Cases in the Supreme Court of Nepal
    (Digital Himalaya Project & the Britain-Nepal Academic Council, 2010-10-20) Pradhan, Rajendra
    In the nineteen nineties, encouraged by the restoration of multiparty parliamentary democracy, a new more liberal constitution, better organized and funded social movements, and the increasing influence of international organizations and laws, legal activists filed numerous public interest litigations pertaining to women’s rights and gender justice in the Supreme Court of Nepal. These cases concerned a wide range of issues, including ancestral property, marriage, divorce, marital rape, sexual harassment, and citizenship. The decisions of the Supreme Court were on the whole favourable to women’s rights and contributed to the changes in the laws, especially discriminatory provisions in the Muluki Ain (National Code), making them more supportive of gender equality and justice. In today’s lecture, I will offer one reading or interpretation of these laws and court cases using a legal anthropological perspective to make two points. First, I will demonstrate the usefulness of using the concept of legal pluralism to understand the historical as well as contemporary legal fields in Nepal and make a case for state legal pluralism. I will then discuss the ‘paradigm of argument’ (Comaroff and Roberts 1977) used by the petitioners, the respondents (Government) and the judges in the Supreme Court, paying attention to the different laws they cite to justify their arguments, including the Constitution, international law, customary law and Hindu norms and ‘Nepali culture’ to demonstrate legal pluralism in the Supreme Court. Second, I will argue that these court cases are not only about women’s rights and gender justice but more importantly they are cultural contestations concerning gender relations, family, marriage, property, individuals, citizenship, and so on and more generally about different visions of Nepali society. In conclusion, I will reflect on the relations between law and culture and law and social change in a legal pluralistic, multicultural, predominantly rural society.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Supporting Nepal’s Peace Process: From Conflict to Constituent Assembly
    (Britain-Nepal Academic Council, 2010-03-18) Martin, Ian
    Nepal’s political and civil society leaders are rightly credited with a remarkable nationally-owned peace process. From 2003 onwards, the United Nations began its support through a low-key good offices role to encourage an end to the armed conflict. In 2005, the UN role expanded with the establishment of a large human rights monitoring operation (OHCHR-Nepal), which sought to mitigate abuses on both sides of the war and to defend democratic rights as the people’s movement intensified. After the ceasefire, the first interim government and the Maoists asked the UN to monitor commitments regarding arms and armed personnel under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and to assist in holding the election of a Constituent Assembly. To this end, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was established in January 2007 by the UN Security Council. As consensus among the parties broke down after the Maoists’ electoral success, the UN role was drawn into increasing controversy, and today Nepal and the UN face a possible crisis around the imminent deadline for the new constitution. In his talk, Ian Martin will discuss the history of the UN involvement in Nepal’s peace process and offer some reflections on the difficult path that lies ahead. Ian Martin lived in Nepal from May 2005 to February 2009, working for the United Nations successively as Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for support to the peace process, and Special Representative of the Secretary- General and Head of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN). His other UN appointments include Head of the Headquarters Board of Inquiry into certain incidents in the Gaza Strip (February-April 2009), Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste (2006), Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the East Timor Popular Consultation (1999), Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary- General in the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (2000-01), Special Adviser to the High Commissioner for Human Rights (1998), Chief of the UN Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda (1995-96) and Director for Human Rights of the International Civilian Mission in Haiti (1993 and 1994-95). He was Deputy High Representative for Human Rights in the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998-99). He was Secretary General of Amnesty International (1986-92) and Vice President of the International Center for Transitional Justice (2002-05). His writings include Self-Determination in East Timor: the United Nations, the Ballot, and International Intervention.