DR recognizes that caste and patriarchal norms hinder democratic process and economic progress and realization of social justice in Nepal. It also recognizes that most of public and policymakers know almost nothing about Dalits’ experiences of caste-based discrimination and their struggle to overcome structural barriers. Even today, for many Nepalis, Dalits are “untouchables,” born to serve a “higher” caste. Many policymakers and academics do not see that caste-based discrimination is not limited only to villages. Dalits in Nepal face discrimination in nearly every aspect of life. Nearly half of Dalits live below the poverty line. They have lower life expectancy, lower literacy rates, fewer opportunities for social mobility, etc.
Beliefs about caste are founded in Nepal’s oldest Civil Code of 1854 and the Hindu scriptures. The 1854 Civil Code protected state authorities for Brahmin and Chhetri males, arranged the justice system in a hierarchical order, determined the marriage groups, and ordered the dietary system by caste. The 1990 Constitution outlawed caste-based untouchability, but it retained caste and patriarchal rules in the name of protecting Hindu religion, traditional practices, and constitutional monarchy. The 2007 Interim Constitution and the 2015 Constitution gave up caste and patriarchy by declaring Nepal a secular, republican, federal democratic country. Again, this move exists on paper, but has not translated to real life. In daily practice, caste and patriarchal rules continue to dictate the actions and behaviors of many policymakers and implementers.