With her long experience as a crusader on gender issues and domestic violence, rights activist Bandana Rana spoke to New Spotlight on various issues. Excerpts:
Seven years have already passed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace agreement, how do you assess the post-conflict situation in Nepal?
It has been seven years since the signing of the comprehensive peace accord. Significant changes have occurred in the post-conflict transition period. While recently, security sector restructuring—a critical element of the peace process—has been completed. However, an overview of the past seven years reveals that the hopes and aspirations of Nepali people remain largely unfulfilled. The Constituent Assembly (CA) failed to draft the Constitution for the “New Nepal” despite four extensions of the deadline during a four-year term. A “New Nepal,” a just, peaceful, prosperous Nepal that Nepali people had envisioned of with the signing of the CPA remains a deferred dream. Nepal’s peace process is still fragile given the political instability, internal power struggles, inter and intra political party conflicts, political instability, increasing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV)and the prevalent culture of impunity.
As women are the main victims of conflict, how do you see the situation for them now?
The post-conflict transition period has not put an end to inequality. Except the 33 percent representation of women in the constituent assembly 2008, women continue to be under-represented in positions of power and in decision making roles. Women’s participation in the peace negotiations, political talks has remained insignificant. The issues of inclusion, equality, full, equal, meaningful representation of women are promoted as election-time agenda rather than as essential elements and pre-requisites for sustainable peace. Women continue to suffer from SGBV and the after-effects of mental and physical torture, internal displacement, and social and economic exploitation. Further, the prevalent culture of impunity, lack of adequate and effective support mechanisms for victims of conflict to acquire justice or heal the wounds of conflict continues to increase their vulnerabilities to SGBV, discrimination and exploitation.
Nepal is celebrating the peace day. How do you look at this?
Not just Nepal the whole world celebrates the peace day on 21 September. However peace day is of particular significance more to countries in conflict or countries in transition to peace like Nepal. Celebration of peace day should not be limited to official programs with high level dignitaries propagating what is peace and what they have done amongst audience who have heard that repeatedly…but review and analyze what has been done, what have been the progress and most importantly what the gaps are for attaining sustainable peace. It is important to hear and address diverse voices and concerns and renew political commitment for an effective and inclusive way forward.
We have taken Peace Day as an opportunity to voice our vital concern over absence of women in peace processes and in decision making roles and increasing SGBV and prevailing culture of impunity; to make our demand for a gender-just justice and peace explicit, and express our solidarity for women’s involvement for sustainable peace and demand for greater accountability from all the concerned stakeholders to honor their obligations for the effective implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security and its successive resolutions. Peace day is also an opportunity to spread the message of peace education and zero tolerance to violence in keeping with the spirit of the theme “Education for Peace” set by the UN for this year’s International Day of Peace.
Politicians are claiming that the peace process has completed following the completion of integration process. Do you agree on that?
No. Completion of integration process is an essential element of the peace process but not the only one and all.
If not, what are there to complete?
Hundreds of families of the disappeared have yet to know of the whereabouts of their near and dear ones; thousands of women and girls survivors of SGBV are still denied justice, they are not even covered by the interim relief program the government has been implementing since 2007; hope for justice is further diminished in the absence of TRC and given the prevalence of culture of impunity. A viable peace is not possible without healing of past wounds, pains and sufferings, redress to past atrocities and guarantee of non-repetition in the future. For this, it is essential that the truth is revealed, access to justice is ensured, gender justice and just peace is achieved, rule of law prevails, a conducive environment is created, where there is no fear, threat, and violence, women and girls are able to lead a dignified and violence free life, and moreover, they are fully, equally and meaningfully represented in all the peace processes. Peace process is not complete in true sense without a viable peace.
As a civil society leader working on women rights issue, what do you suggest for long lasting peace?
In order to achieve sustainable peace, it is essential to ensure gender justice and gender-just peace. Gender justice and gender-just peace are not possible without equal, active and meaningful participation of women in all the peace-building processes and taking into account their needs, concerns and rights. Towards this end Nepal has a five year National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 & 1820 since 2011 which has been recognized by the international community as one of the best plans. The plan clearly outlines what needs to be done under the five pillars – (i) participation, (ii) prevention and protection, (iii) promotion, (iv)relief and recovery and (v) resource mobilization and monitoring and evaluation. This is a good roadmap to follow for addressing the women peace and security concerns of the country with greater accountability from the government, external development partners and the civil society.