A magnitude-6.9 earthquake rattled most of Nepal Sunday, leaving at least six dead and some 24 seriously injured. The slow response to the quake puts a spotlight on Nepal’s dismal disaster preparedness record, despite a history of devastating earthquakes.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai called for fresh assembly elections Nov. 22 to complete the constitution and announced he would be head of an interim government until then. But critics question the legality of his announcement, the legitimacy of his government after Sunday, and the utility of electing another assembly that could possibly meet the same fate given a poor track record of Nepal’s political forces.
Selling Nepal as a wedding destination for gay couples, many of whom live in countries where same-sex marriage is illegal, has been widely embraced by the entrepreneurs of the tourism sector, a once thriving industry that was dealt a severe blow during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that claimed the lives of 16,000 people.
The end of the insurgency heralded a new era for the gay and lesbian community in this conservative Himalayan nation.
Thousands of Nepali took to the streets this week in support of a United Nepal. Their cry, "Himal, Pahad, Terai," (Mountain, Hills, Plains), was in response to violent demonstrations that have plagued the country over the past week, as some of Nepal's more than 100 minorities demanded a new form of government that would divide Nepal into States based on ethnicity.
Three political parties have resigned from Nepal's Maoist-led government as fears grow that the country is descending into constitutional chaos.
Nepal's prime minister called fresh elections in six months after politicians failed to meet a deadline on Sunday to agree a new constitution.
Baburam Bhattarai said he was left with no choice after four years of deadlock.
India has just launched a plan to spend $361 million over the next several years on roads and rail links in the terai, announcing the grants just before Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav made his Feb. 15 official visit to New Delhi. China, meanwhile, recently increased its annual aid to Nepal by 50% to about $22 million.
The money is certainly welcome in Nepal, which has the lowest per capita income in South Asia. But the jockeying for influence between China and India may be undermining Nepal's fragile democracy, as the country's 24 political parties trade charges of being pawns of one or the other.
In legal terms, the third gender in Nepal -- denoted on official documents as "other" -- is an identity-based category for people who do not identify as either male or female. This may include people who present or perform as a gender that is different from the one that was assigned to them at birth. It can also include people who do not feel that the male or female gender roles dictated by their culture match their true social, sexual, or gender identity.
The Nepalese government receives substantial Chinese aid and uses the relationship to balance Indian influence. Officials receive training from China, and successive governments have been sensitive to Chinese intolerance of protests.
With its ancient culture and the Himalayas as a backdrop, landlocked Nepal has a romantic image.
It is nonetheless one of the world's poorest countries, and is struggling to overcome the legacy of a 10-year Maoist insurrection.
Until Nepal became a republic in May 2008, it had been ruled by monarchs or a ruling family for most of its modern history in relative isolation.
Nepal is a nation of 27 million people wedged strategically between India and China. Once a Hindu monarchy, it is making a traumatic transition to democracy.
On Feb. 3, 2011, Nepal’s bitterly divided legislature elected a new prime minister, which ended a month-long stalemate in the country. Competing political parties had fought to control the government.