Through the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia | Society | South Asia

Social Justice a Distant Dream for Nepal’s Dalits

A Nepali MP shares her experiences as a low-caste woman.

By Vishal Arora for

It’s been more than a decade since Nepal transformed from a Hindu monarchy to a federal republic, but Dalits, who are at the bottom of its stratified caste system, remain the poorest of the poor. They are often denied access to religious sites and expected to do menial jobs. Many Hindus believe that “higher caste” people originated from God’s mouth, arms, or thighs, and Dalits from the feet. Some “high caste” Hindus avoid even touching a Dalit.

Dalit women are even worse of and often victims of human trafficking. While the new political system has created a level playing field, equality remains mostly on paper alone.

However, Umita Bishwokarma, a Dalit woman and a former Maoist rebel, has risen to become a member of Parliament from eastern Nepal thanks to the country’s proportional electoral system. In this video, she shares her own past experiences and her hope for the future.