A sitting lawmaker provokes youths to demand dowry. Who will hold him accountable?

Abdul Rahim Ansari, a lawmaker from Madesh province, asked Madheshi youths to demand KTM Duke bikes for dowry, which has long been criminalized in Nepal.

Dowry system was criminalized in Nepal in 1976 under the Social Practices Reform Act (2033). Illustration: Nepal Live Today

Rojina Rai

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Kathmandu: Nepal has outlawed the dowry system years ago. But, rather than discouraging the dowry system, an elected representative from Madhesh province has openly encouraged youths to ask for dowries.

In a video circulated on social media, Abdul Rahim Ansari (Manjur Ansari),  a Madesh Province lawmaker, is heard saying that the dowry system still exists in the country. He further asked youths to demand for KTM Duke, an expensive brand of bike in Nepal, rather than Pulsar bike as dowry. 

The Dowry system was criminalized in Nepal in 1976 under the Social Practices Reform Act (2033). But the practice continued. In 2009, Nepal enacted yet another Evil Social Customs and Practices Abolition Act to outlaw dowry.

[Related: Dowry related violence could escalate during the pandemic]

As a lawmaker, Ansari’s responsibility was to discourage the dowry system in the province. However, during the inauguration ceremony of the KTM Duke showroom in Birgunj, Ansari said, “I hope the sales of KTM Duke goes up in the region. As the dowry system still exists in our societies, youths should ask for KTM Duke rather than Pulsar bikes.”

According to rights activists, such a statement from a lawmaker is unacceptable. “Being an elected representative, Ansari’s responsibility is to stand against dowry. The Constitution of Nepal has outlawed the dowry system. Abdul is a lawmaker as per the constitution of Nepal. How can he give a statement against the constitution?” questioned Hima Bista, a rights activist.

“For making such a statement, the political party he belongs to should hold him accountable. He should immediately step down, and apologize for making such statements–that is against the constitution,” she said.

Abdul won the provincial assembly election from Parsa-3(A) from Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal. 

The statement from Abdul comes at a time when violence against women related to dowry practices is going unabated due to poor enforcement of the laws and social and economic issues linked with the tradition.

According to the data provided by Nepal Police, as many as 141 cases of dowry-related violence were reported in the last four years.

“This is a provocative statement. When powerful people give statements, it provokes people. There is no one above the law. The lawmaker must step down,” concluded Bista.

Although Nepal’s constitution prohibits dowry practices, hundreds of women across the country are still subjected to mental and physical violence and even murdered for dowry.