In Nepal, females are worshipped as living goddesses. There are hosts of goddesses both in Hinduism, Buddhism and Tantrism that are worshipped by Nepalese. This view is so much emphasized in this country that the law prohibits even the sacrifice of female animals. In Nepal, women are regarded as earthly manifestations of Kali, the Queen of Gods and Goddesses. The Agama Tantra favours both sexes equally and makes no distinction between men and women, or even between respectable women and prostitutes as all women are made equal. Tantrics hold women in great esteem and call them Shakti, the power and to ill-treat Shakti or women is considered to be a cardinal sin. This is also the version of epics. Thus, culturally the picture of women in Nepal is quite favourable. However, the socio-economic status of women counteracts the cultural background.
The socio-economic condition in the medieval period of Nepal was very bad but conditions have greatly improved in modern Nepal. However, literacy rate among women (2001) was 42.8% while in male it was 65.5% as against the average 54.1%. Considering some parameters pertaining to Nepalese women, mortality rate was about 41 years while national average mortality rate was 45.5 years. Infant mortality rate estimated in 2004 was 64.4 per 1000 live births. Life expectancy for female is 62.50 years while for male it is 61.76 years while average life expectancy at birth is 62.20 years. Total fertility rate of children per women of 15-49 years age is 4.1. Statistic data shows that women are subject to both unemployment and underemployment. Majority of the women are self-employed. Total unemployment rate in female is 9.2% while in male is 7.0% while total employment rate is 8.1 %. Economically, women are weak and subjected to low paying and unskilled job. Economically active aged 10 and above male are 71.7% while females are 43.4%. Household work i.e. rearing of children is not recognized as any significant job socially and economically. However, women representation in Parliament is 29.5% as of 2015.
The condition of rural women in Nepal is very pathetic. In rural areas child marriages are still prevalent. The percentage of literacy among women in rural areas is almost negligible. The population growth results in the hazards of health of the mother and the child. Women are considered inferior to men in various ethnic groups. The condition as a whole of rural women is more critical than their counterparts in the urban society where there is more consciousness among women as regards their social and legal rights. However, in urban Nepalese women also there is a big gap between the status they enjoy in theory and in practice. Social attitudes, restrictions on mobility and lack of independent status are quite evident in urban women also.
It has now been fully realized that the lower status of women hampers the growth of human beings. The status of Nepali women is legally strong but institutionally weak. However, in the present day challenges, equal participation of both men and women is absolutely essential and its importance is being gradually realised by more and more people in the country. In this context, it is high time for institutional reforms in the status of women for all-round development. It requires changes over traditional attitudes.
The social and economic position of women was greatly augmented by various plans and programmes, institutional and social reforms. Modern women of Nepal are in a better position in all fields. They are well-placed owing to various legal and social measures adopted a few decades ago. Still owing to the lack of proper education, knowledge, and ignorance the condition has not improved to that extent. In all the national development plans, there is no specific allusion for women. The condition of rural women is still very much as it was earlier.
Though efforts have been made to protect and promote women’s rights, Nepalese socio-cultural beliefs, rural poverty, traditional barrier, lack of resources and realization of women’s rights are major constraints in implementing the provisions to enhance status of women and secure women’s rights.