The Nepal Digest - Aug 8, 1994 (25 Shrawan 2051 BkSm)

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The Nepal Digest Monday 8 Aug 94: Shrawan 25 2051 BkSm Volume 30 Issue 3

    Special Issue: AIDS in Nepal - Can anything be done about it?

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********************************************************************** From: (Madhav Bhatta) Subject: My cousin and her Father To: Date: Mon, 1 Aug 1994 15:23:51 -0400 (EDT)

When we talk about the gender inequality in the Nepali society, we tread into a fairly complex and new issue. I say new not because the problem is new, but the very idea of talking about it is new. Naturally, the subject is very sensitive and passionate-well illustrated by the number of articles, responses and comments we have seen until now. Are we as a society, really as bad as Mr Promod Mishra thinks or do we walk a middle ground somewhere between his interpretation and of those arguing the total reverence of women in Hinduism?

As so many others have pointed out that the Nepali society is not a homogeneous entity. To borrow the words of Prithivi Narayan Shah, "it is a garden of four castes and thirty-six subcastes." I am quoting the saying merely to illustrate the fact that we have a myriads of cultures and subcultures- no more or less than that. Every group and subgroup has adopted its own social rules, ideals and norms in accordance to their geographic location, economic conditions and other external influencing factors.Then is it fair to argue one way or the other solely based on what the ancient scriptures in Hinduism have to say about the status of women? I personally think that hardly any group in Nepal strictly base their lives, hence the society, according to the Hindu scriptures. To illustrate the variations in customs here is an example. For some groups it is perfectly normal to marry the first cousin from the mothers side, while others look into seven generations of lineage to avoid wedlock between relatives.

 I can safely make the assumption that Nepali society is a male-dominated one where women have been treated unfairly for too long. But let us not condem every "Hindu" or Nepali father for the crime of conspiracy against his baby girl. Maybe he is saddened at her birth for he is worried about her future prospect in our cruel male-dominated society. May be he can't bear the thought of pain, agony and anguish when sixteen years later he has to "give her away." This always reminds me of that summerday six years ago. The day has become a part of my permanent memory. It was supposed to be a joyful occasion. A landmark day in my cousins life- she was getting married. Yes, it was one of those arranged marriages. She did not know her groom, but then her groom also did not know her. I guess they will have know each other after the wedding to navigate the rest of their lives. A little disheartening prospect, but I took comfort in the fact that my father and mother, uncle and aunt and so many other people had successfully gone through life the same way my cousin and her new husband were about go begin. Anyway, after the "Janti" left my uncles' house with my beautiful cousin, there felt a deafening silence. My aunt had stop wailing- she fainted once or twice and probalbly now she was dumb struck. I saw my uncle sitting on the house porch gazing somewhere in the distance. I saw his face, I felt his heart; let me tell you it was not a distant look of a happy father who just "got rid of a potential danger to the family name and honor." It was not a face of a conspiring and conniving father. It was the face of a father who just had his heart torn out. It was a face of a man who was in pain, agony and anguish. So please for the sake of my uncle, don't condem every Nepali father.

This leads to me to the point that we cannot interpret our every traditions in light of everything negetive. Neither this absolves us from the injustice, pain and suffering we have inflicted, intentionally or otherwise, on our mothers and sisters. I have no problem with most of Mr Mishras' observations, though some I find little hard to believe. My problem lies in his interpretations of most of our traditions. This no way means I am defending all our traditions. I have a big problem with some of our traditions for different reasons than Mr Mishras' interpretations. As for his interpretations I find them taken out of context, some overly analyzed,others underly analyzed and sometimes totally misleading. Instead of explining the reality of our society, and guide to find new solutions to the problem, his way of looking at things cerate new problems. Then, its just my opinion.

Madhav P. Bhatta.

University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia.

*********************************************************** Date: 01 Aug 94 19:25:02 EDT From: Rajendra.P.Shrestha@Dartmouth.EDU (Rajendra P. Shrestha) Subject: News 7/30-31 To:

SOURCE: Xinhua
        HEADLINE: un high commissioner for human rights visits nepal DATELINE: kathmandu, july 31; ITEM NO: 0731117
   united nations high commissioner for human rights jose ayale lasso arrived here today on a four-day official visit to nepal at the invitation of the nepali government. on his arrival at the tribhuvan international airport, the u.n. high commissioner said that it is one of the important activities for the u.n. commission on human rights to keep close contact with the governments of different countries for promotion of human rights. during the visit, the u.n. high commissioner will visit the bhutanese refugee camps in eastern nepal on
---------------------------------------------------------------- SOURCE: Xinhua HEADLINE: mass rally held by left parties in nepal DATELINE: kathmandu, july 30; ITEM NO: 0730146
   madhav kumar nepal, general secretary of the communist party of nepal (uml), the former main opposition, reasserted left parties' demands for the dissolution of the present caretaker government and setting up of an all party government. the demands were raised earlier in a joint statement issued on july 23 by six left parties including uml and nepali congress (nc) general secretary mahendra narayan nidhi and some other leaders of the former ruling party, the nc. addressing a rally held by six left parties here this afternoon, the uml general secretary said that "the caretaker government should be dissolved immediately and an all party government set up to look over the fresh mid-term polls or else we've to continue our movement as there would not be a free, fare or impartial election under the present caretaker government led by prime minister girija prasad koirala." the rally was originally decided by left parties, nidhi and some nc leaders and nidhi was to address the meeting, but they had to be absent from the meeting after the july 27 nc central working meeting, nepal said. but, nepal said, nc supreme leader ganesh man singh who is now under treatment in the hospital sent his regards and full support to the rally. "the left parties will continue their nationwide protest movement until achievements made," nepal stated. leaders of other five left parties also addressed the mass rally which was participated by over 10,000 left supporters as well as some nc workers. demonstrations were held peacefully in downtown streets of the capital city before the rally.
----------------------------------------------------------------- SOURCE: UPI

HEADLINE: Nepal's communists seek to dislodge government DATELINE: KATMANDU, July 30
   An alliance of six communist parties Saturday announced a plan to try to dislodge Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, form an all-party government and oversee snap polls on November 13. The program, announced at a party meeting Saturday, calls for general strikes throughout the kingdom for three days beginning on Aug. 3. Rebels within Koirala's Nepali Congress party will announce separate demonstrations against Koirala, published reports said. Differences in the Congress Party resurfaced Friday at a meeting sponsored by Koirala who was asked to contest forthcoming elections. Koirala made no commitment. Earlier, Koirala and two other party leaders, including party President Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, announced they would not seek elections to parliament in an effort to unite the party and pass the leadership to the youth. The communists and the members of Koirala's party have asked King Birendra, whose powers were curtailed by a popular movement four years earlier, to intervene and form an all-party government. A royal palace source said, ''there was no question of the palace intervening in the appairs of a party or between parties.''

**************************************************************** Date: Mon, 01 Aug 1994 18:04:43 EST From: To: Subject: Women in Hinduism

Bhandari Jee Namaste,

        Your prompt response is appreciated. In my letter I did not write any thing about 'Teez'. I merely underlined the clause in your statement 'I would not let my wife do it', pointing out that the decision is still yours, not your wife's. I assumed you will find some humor in it. I apologize for the misunderstanding. As per bringing the issue of Suttee, it is simply a 'red herring'. Thanks for your exegesis of SLC results.
        Regards. Sincerely yours - Tilak B. Shrestha.


*********************************************************************************************** Date: 03 Aug 94 17:11:46 EDT From: Rajendra.P.Shrestha@Dartmouth.EDU (Rajendra P. Shrestha) Subject: AIDS in Nepal To:

                         Los Angeles Times
                          August 3, 1994, Wednesday, Electronic Edition
                                                                               SECTION: Part AA; Page 1


   In the antiseptic parlance of public health professionals, Amarwati is a "commercial sex worker" and potential "vector" for AIDS.

   Two or three times a day, the 21-year-old woman with black curly hair and a nervous smile brings men into her modest home with stained yellow walls, and steers them toward a hard wood-frame bed.

   As a fan overhead whips the warm air, she and her clients have sex.

   She earns $2 to $3 daily. Amarwati, who has an 8-year-old daughter, is not unusual. So many women in her district of this lowland town in midwestern Nepal are prostitutes that a patch of dusty ground across from their homes seems, like a freakish garden drawn by Salvador Dali, to have bloomed with a crop of used, shriveled condoms.

   Amarwati and her neighbors are among the reasons that officials in this small landlocked kingdom, renowned for its snowy Himalayan vistas and exotic culture, are now bracing for the onslaught of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

   "All symptoms point to the fact that when HIV begins to spread with velocity here, it will explode," said Dr. Daniel Tarantola, director of the International AIDS Program at the Harvard School of Public Health's Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center.

    Nepal's looming crisis is part of a general, alarming trend. Last winter, the number of HIV-infected people in south and southeastern Asia overtook the total of infected people in the industrialized world for the first time, according to a study published this year by Harvard's Global AIDS Policy Coalition.

   Judging by available evidence, the study concluded, the number of people who are infected yearly with HIV has begun to decline everywhere -- except in Asia.

   The trauma and challenges of AIDS, whose first cases were recognized among gay American men in 1981, are unfortunately not new. But as health professionals are learning, dealing with HIV as it speeds through previously uncontaminated societies requires much more than duplicating approaches used in the United States, Africa or elsewhere.

   Take Amarwati. Since she was 12 and her family desperately needed money, she says, she has been engaging in prostitution. Her mother did too, she says.

   Both women belong to the Badis, a branch of the despised Hindu caste known as the Untouchables. Badi women have traditionally sold their bodies. An estimated 15,000 to 16,000 members of the subcaste live in Nepal, and 40% of their households contain at least one woman engaging in the sex trade, experts say. Each sex worker may support up to eight family members.

   With an entire community dependent on prostitution for much, if not most, of its income, eliminating Badi women as potential HIV vectors, or carriers, is difficult. Handing out more than 7,000 condoms each month to the prostitutes and teaching them and customers how to use them with cartoons on a flip chart, as the grass-roots Social Awareness for Education (SAFE) does in Nepalganj, is just a start.

   "Our purpose is also to supply an alternative profession for the Badi people," SAFE leader Dilip Pariyar said.

   It's a mighty, uphill struggle, and one emblematic of the social changes that specialists like Tarantola, a garrulous, charming Frenchman who received a prestigious Albert Schweitzer Award for his achievements in public health, say must be made in tradition-bound Nepalese society if AIDS is not to spread like wildfire.

   In this beautiful but impoverished land, where the average annual income is $165, the economic lure of prostitution is strong, especially if a woman knows no other trade. In many villages, it is assumed that any hut that has a tin roof instead of a thatch one houses a prostitute who can afford the more expensive covering.

   Many Nepalese, reared in the traditional Hindu value system that regards each caste as fit for only one type of labor, have a difficult time imagining Badi women engaged in anything but sex for hire. That is one reason that SAFE has opened a hostel in Nepalganj for 22 Badi girls, ages 8 to 17.

   The youngsters, freshly scrubbed and wearing white smocks, used to live at home, but relatives who wanted to act as their pimps -- as well as hopeful clients -- wouldn't stop soliciting them, Pariyar said.

   The Badis represent only a single aspect, albeit a unique one, of the challenges facing Nepalese and foreign organizations wrestling with the AIDS crisis here. By some estimates, a staggering 200,000 Nepali women are employed in brothels in India. Some went willingly, while others were duped by brokers who bought them from their parents.

   This Indian sex trade may represent the greatest potential AIDS carrier of all. In Bombay, where an estimated 60,000 Nepalese women toil in the brothels, nearly 45% of prostitutes have tested HIV-positive.

   What will happen when these Nepali women return home, often to isolated mountain hamlets where there is no AIDS testing? And what of their clients? An estimated 90,000 Nepalese men work in Bombay, and a fact-finding mission this year by Nepalese women's organizations to 50 Indian brothels found that a Nepalese prostitute, on average,
"entertained" four or five countrymen every day.

   "These men then come home to their wives and families," said Dr. Renu Rajbhandari, executive director of the Women's Rehabilitation Center in Katmandu, the capital. "And we don't know how much HIV they are bringing back."

   The cross-border trade in prostitutes, most of whom are taken to India when they are 12 or 13 and treated as sex slaves, could have devastating consequences for the Tamangs and other hill tribes of central Nepal, whose women and girls are particularly prized by men in India and other parts of Nepal for their docility and gentleness.

   "From Nuwakot, the girls go because they need money. They don't have anything else," Rajbhandari said. In the villages of another central district, "you can't find a young woman," she added. "They are all in Bombay."

   To minimize the women's risk of contracting HIV or venereal disease, the Women's Rehabilitation Center has hired half a dozen Bombay prostitutes to work as "peer counselors" in the brothels, responsible for explaining the hows and whys of AIDS and condoms, which many Nepalese have never seen.

   "We can't say, 'Don't do prostitution,' " Rajbhandari said. "This is not our right. We say, 'Have safer sex.' "

   But with as many as an estimated 90% of the girls from some villages in Sindhupalchok, north of Katmandu, engaging in prostitution, the Women's Rehabilitation Center is also trying to promote alternative income projects, like bamboo crafts, to break the economic logic that causes many women to opt for or be ensnared in the sex business.

   "If they can earn 700 rupees (about $15) per month, they won't go to Bombay," Rajbhandari said.

   At WRC headquarters, 15 girls and young women make a living knitting sweaters, which a middleman buys for $5 apiece for shipment to Germany. One star knitter is Gita, 28, who was sold into prostitution by her cousin, but who had to return to Nepal from Bombay when a blood test showed she is HIV-positive. Now sometimes brooding and temperamental, Gita says she has a lover and wants to get married.

   As in sub-Saharan African countries, poverty is a contributing factor to the spread of AIDS here. Dr. Benu B. Karki is chief of the Nepalese government's National AIDS Prevention and Control Project. He has a staff of 15 and an annual budget of $300,000 for a nation of about 20 million people.

   "Raising awareness is the only strategy that we have in the AIDS program," the harried doctor said. "I don't have any regional, district or village staff."

    Nepal's conservative Hindu mores also complicate the anti-AIDS campaign: Outside of marriage, people generally don't talk about sex. A woman is not deemed a man's equal and has little or no control over her sex life.

   And in a country where 74% of adults are illiterate, prudery and ignorance seem to reinforce themselves.

   "If you want to examine a person's private parts, either they refuse, or they leave the doctor's office," Karki said. "We really don't find out about some people (AIDS victims) until they die."

   The first AIDS case in Nepal was diagnosed in July, 1988. Today, Health Ministry statistics say 100 men and 102 women have been found to be HIV-positive. Thirty of them have developed AIDS, and 15 have died.

   Extrapolating from those numbers, the ministry estimates there are 6,000 HIV carriers in the country. But Karki admitted, "We really don't know the situation."

   Other potential AIDS carriers include about 350,000 Nepalese who head to India each year in search of work. "They are uneducated and don't even know what a condom is," Karki said. In the other direction, an estimated 2 million truck drivers, farm workers and other Indians flock annually to Nepal, where they often patronize prostitutes.

   To supplement the government's modest anti-AIDS effort, a number of local and foreign charities and nonprofit organizations have stepped in. AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research chaired by actress Elizabeth Taylor, began funding 17 prevention programs in Nepal in October and says it will pump more than $600,000 in grants and technical assistance into the country annually for three years.

   "Our strategy is to go to countries with low incidence of HIV, but where there is danger of rapid growth," said the Rev. Margaret R. Reinfeld, an Episcopal priest who is AmFAR's director of education and international programs. "We try to encourage community responses in ways appropriate for those countries, and not import ready-made solutions."

   This has taken the anti-AIDS message in some strange directions that do not always meet with full approval from the American donors. This summer, members of an AmFAR delegation cringed as one of Nepal's oldest social-service organizations, Agroforestry, Basic Health & Cooperatives Nepal, distributed brochures at a Bhaktapur elementary school that were intended to inform children about AIDS.

   The leaflets contained graphic, colorful photographs of sores and other symptoms. Although the youngsters eagerly scrutinized the pictures and listened politely to the teacher, some clearly didn't understand the significance of the lesson.

   "But why do we need a sexual partner?" one asked.

   Funded wholly or in part by AmFAR, social workers now cruise Katmandu's "Freak Street," a rendezvous made famous by Western hippies of the 1960s, and exchange needles used by some of Nepal's officially estimated 25,000 intravenous drug users, most of whom shoot low-grade heroin. At the country's biggest cracker factory, a traveling lecture session and burlesque street show in June told workers and neighbors about AIDS.

   There was even a how-to lesson on condoms that erupted into general hilarity when a hapless male assistant inadvertently launched the condom into the air.

   In Nepal, the anti-AIDS message is being preached by community organizations that, in addition, promote growing leafy green vegetables to reduce Vitamin A deficiency, goat husbandry as a means to financial independence and the buying up of land to distribute to impoverished tribes or castes.

   There seems to be a clear danger that information about AIDS will be drowned out by other items on the agenda. But Tarantola insists that this community-based approach is the only effective strategy. And though some anti-AIDS measures may seem to have little in common with, say, the activities of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the root logic, Tarantola said, is identical.

   "I suggest that wherever discrimination exists . . . this is probably where the highest vulnerability for HIV is," said Tarantola, scientific editor of the voluminous "AIDS in the World" study. "You can correlate marginalization with vulnerability."

   In Nepal, "marginalization" means the situation of groups like the Badi. It is too early to foretell the fate of Amarwati and her neighbors. One recent study found that 70% of Badi sex workers suffered from syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, but HIV apparently has not yet made significant inroads.

   So perhaps the Daliesque landscape of castaway condoms in Nepalganj's Badi ghetto is a sign of hope. As a result of advice from SAFE's health workers, Amarwati says, for the past 12 months she has insisted that her clients use a condom. If necessary, she can provide one.

   "If they use a condom, they get it," the Badi woman said matter-of-factly. "If they don't, they don't. It's my health."

   By some estimates, a staggering 200,000 Nepali women are employed in brothels in India. Some went willingly, while others were duped by brokers who bought them from their parents.

************************************************************* Date: 07 Aug 94 16:24:59 EDT From: Rajendra.P.Shrestha@Dartmouth.EDU (Rajendra P. Shrestha) Subject: News 8/5-6 To:

SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: first cable tv to be launched in nepal DATELINE: kathmandu, august 5; ITEM NO: 0805198
    nepal cable tv service, the first of its kind in the country, is to be launched in the capital city of kathmandu by the domestic wing of the space time network (private) ltd. at the end of this month. the cable tv service will distribute 12,500 lines to the house-holds locating in downtown kathmandu in the initial phase, according to a press release issued by the space time network today. the customers will be offered a choice of 12 different channels including an exclusive nepali language channel. according to the press release, the network is also aiming to establish and run a satellite earth station in kathmandu within a year for cable operation. the programs provided by nepal cable tv service will be linked to reach wider audience living in remote places of nepal and other south asian countries in the near future.
                                                  SOURCE: Reuters

   The roof of the world is six feet lower than it was 17 years ago- and that is official.
   The Xinhua news agency Friday quoted the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping's latest measurement in 1992 of the height of Mount Qomolangma (Everest) at 29,023.20 feet, down from the previous measurement of 29,029.30 feet in 1975.
   The latest measurement of the peak's height was arrived at using some of the world's most sophisticated scientific equipment, including a global satellite positioning system and laser measurement technology, it said.
   It took over a year to calculate Mount Everest's height after Chinese scientists finished field work around the summit with the help of Italian mountain climbers, the agency said.
   Some researchers were surprised because they believed Mount Everest, located on the border between China and Nepal, was rising at a rate of 1.45 inches per year, it said.

  HEADLINE: Government redraws electoral map to weaken communists: analysts DATELINE: KATHMANDU, Aug 6
   A commission headed by Supreme Court Justice Jogendra Prasad Shrivastav has redrawn the boundaries of more than a quarter of Nepal's electoral districts, officials said Saturday.
   The move is likely to strengthen the Nepali Congress while weakening the Nepal Communist Party, said political commentators. It is also likely to fuel controversy over the dissolving of Nepal's legislature last month and the holding of new elections this autumn.
   The Constituency Delineation Commission (CDC) changed the number of House of Representatives seats to be elected from 19 of the country's 75 districts, an official source said Saturday.
   Under the new scheme announced Friday, nine districts have each been allocated an additional seat, while Kathmandu has been given two more seats.
   Ten other districts, each of which had two seats under the earlier map, had their number of delegates halved.
    Nepal Communist Party sources said they were studying how the new demarcation of the constituencies in the 19 districts could affect voting in the November 13 mid-term polls called by King Birendra on July 11.
   The king dissolved the 205-member congress following the recommendation of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who lost a crucial debate on his government's annual economic and political programmes on July 10.
   A group of legislators has appealed to the Supreme Court to overturn the dissolving of congress as unconstitutional. The court is scheduled to issue its ruling in two weeks.
   Amid simmering tensions over that conflict, political observers say that re-districting is aimed at reducing the influence of communist delegates from the mountainous and northern districts adjoining Tibet.
   Opposition party members asked the electoral commission to abandon the re-districting plan, but their request was turned down, a Communist Party leader told AFP.
                             SOURCE: DPA HEADLINE: Bombay bomb attack suspect reportedly nabbed in Nepal DATELINE: Kathmandu, Aug 6
    Yakub Razak Memon, 33, a the key suspect in last year's bloody Bombay bomb attacks, was arrested by Kathmandu airport authorities last month, a Nepalese newspaper said Saturday.
    The Nepali-language Kantipur, quoting eyewitnesses, said Memon was arrested on July 24 on his arrival from Karachi, Pakistan, because he was found to carry two passports.

    Memon, who appeared before a New Delhi judge Friday, had said that he was arrested by Nepalese police in Kathmandu and handed over to the Indian police.
    More than 300 people were killed and 1,200 injured when a series of blasts rocked Bombay on March 12, 1993.
    The Nepalese interior ministry denied that Memon was arrested at Kathmandu aiport, saying, "We have no record of arresting Memon".
    A senior Kantipur editor said in response to a query that the newspaper had been informed about the arrest on July 24 but had not carried the news as it lacked confirmation.
    "When we came to know through news agencies yesterday that Memon told a New Delhi magistrate that he was arrested in Kathmandu and that he was handed over to the Indian police, we had no doubt about the veracity of the story," he said.
    The newspaper said that apart from the Indian and Pakistani passports, which led to his arrest in Kathmandu, the suspect was later found to carry 19 more passports, including one belonging to Daud Ibrahim, another key suspect in the Bombay bombing.
    A criminal trial is currently under way in Bombay. Among the 189 people charged in connection with the bombings are Hindi movie idol Sunjay Dutt and members of Bombay's underworld.
    Indian Home Minister Shankarao Chavan announced Friday that Memon had been arrested by police in New Delhi, but did not divulge any details about his arrest.
    The Indian government official said Memon was found to carry documents which confirmed Pakistan's complicity in the blasts, dpa mu
                            SOURCE: Xinhua

HEADLINE: nepal to set up one-man post office in all villages DATELINE: kathmandu, august 6; ITEM NO: 0806094
   the nepali government is establishing one-man post offices in all of the country's villages in accordance with the announced program to provide simple and cheap communication services by means of general mail services. a circular on the decision of the government has already been sent to all the district post offices and the necessary preparations are underway, according to ramchandra upadhuaua, director general of the mail services department. in some villages, one man post offices have already started functioning, the official said, adding that the monsoon has delayed the operation of the post offices owing to the difficulties in transporting mail items to the remote parts. the program envisages a total of 3,995 one-man post offices would be set up in rural areas altogether. nepal now has 2,479 post offices including 5 general post offices, 70 district post offices, 497 area post offices, 1,673 additional post offices and 234 village post offices, said a new economic survey of fiscal year 1993-94 issued recently by the finance ministry.

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