From having to address the judge as, “Husband,” to receiving fewer opportunities to speak in court and advance in their careers, female legal professionals in Nepal cite discrimination in the male-dominated field. If their rights aren’t respected in the legal sector, they ask how they are supposed to uphold equal rights for women nationwide.
 
by Lochana Sharma
 
KATHMANDU, NEPAL – Meera Dhungana, 46, a lawyer, was 28 when she first stepped into the courtroom to try her first case. Though confident, she says she was uncomfortable addressing the judge. In Nepal, the word used to address the judge is “Shreeman,” which means “Husband.”
 
“To address a judge as, ‘Shreeman,’ that too for an unmarried woman to use that word, it becomes quite awkward,” she says.
 
"Women in other countries might be shocked that Nepali advocates are themselves working against their will in the courts."
- Meera Dhungana, Nepali lawyer
She says the consequences can be more than discomfort for female lawyers.
 
“For women who aren’t confident enough, it could even put a negative impact on their case, resulting in them losing the case and denying their party justice,” she says.
 
Dhungana says she remembers that she didn’t address the judge during that first case.
 
“‘Shreeman’ is someone who we are married to officially,” she says. “But due to the existing traditions, we are forced to use this word in the court.”
 

[printable page]