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Student Voice Interview - Nepal's Tribhuvan University

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This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 17 - The Harvard Conference.

We have a Student Voice Interview for you that has come a long way! Campus Organizer for the SSA, interviews Uttam Niraula, coordinator for SOCH Youth at Tribhuvan University in Nepal.


Organizer: What does SOCH stand for exactly?

Uttam: The full name of SOCH is Society for Humanism. It was formed to initiate Nepali society into the Humanist movement. Humanism is a new movement in Nepal, so we youths are committed to promoting the humanist movement. We want to form a Humanist society in every part of the country, rather than only at universities. As a result, many youths will be representing different sectors of society. We want to be the means to foster the movement in our society.

Organizer: What is the religious climate like in Nepal? Was there a lot of resistance when you decided to be very public about your ideas?

Uttam: Nepal was the only Hindu country in the world some nine months back. After the people's revolution 2006, the country was declared secular. But some religious extremist groups are still threatening the government to turn back the declaration of secularism. These groups regard us (humanists) as their opponent, because we advocate for secularism. Though some secular political parties formed in Nepal, religious groups always become dominant.

You might also know that the King of Nepal believes himself to be the incarnation of Lord Bishnu (Hindu God) and that he tried to rule Nepal as a god. We have to think many times before speaking about religion and secular ideas. You can hardly find any atheists in our society because s/he is regarded as asocial and immoral. But we're working to change that.


Organizer: Tell our readers a few things about Nepal that people in the west likely are not aware of.

Uttam: I have already mentioned to you that Nepal is suffering from different malpractices. Most western people probably are unaware of these things:

  • When a girl menstruates for the first time, she is prohibited to see the face of a male. Parents put her in a dark room or cow shed or in a relative's house for 22 days without much care of hygienic food and proper sanitation. It is believed that menstrual blood is evil blood and the girl who menstruates should not see faces, especially of her brothers and father.
  • Similarly, in Far-Western Nepal, women who menstruate have to live in a cow shed or a very small room for four days every month. A very tiny room is constructed in a field far away from the house for this very purpose.
  • A ritual called Kumari Pratha (System) is highly celebrated in Kathmandu. Kumari is a living Goddess, who is worshipped with a belief that all desires will be fulfilled by worshipping her. The girl who is worshipped is under puberty age and is not allowed to go out of the temple where she is worshipped. The Kumari who turns to the age of puberty is replaced by another. It is said that Kumaries should not marry; they should remain alone for their whole life. Nobody has raised their voice against such rituals and the violation of human rights of a small girl. Even the government has provided certain funds in the name of Kumari. We are strongly advocating against such malpractice, but nobody supports us, even not the government.


We have many such practices that might seem strange for western people.

Organizer: Yours is a very new group - what are you doing to get things rolling with SOCH?

Uttam: Actually, we are focused upon organizing awareness campaigns. We also support university students in their research related to humanist issues. We organize workshops, publish bulletins, we are going to host a web site very soon, and we are also producing a humanist radio program for youths.

Nepal is going to the Constitution Assembly (CA) this June. The government has already announced the election of CA. We are trying to create awareness among youth about the Humanist movement so young people can help their society to elect a candidate who supports secularism, atheism, etc. This is our main agenda until the election of CA.

Organizer: Would your group be interested in flying me into Nepal to present on secular activism?

Uttam: Oh great! We energetically welcome you to help us to foster humanism in Nepal. Please, you are welcome at any time. We will support your lodging here. But I'm sorry to say that we are unable to provide you with food and other things due to financial reasons.

Organizer: How did you hear about the SSA from so far away?

Uttam: We got information about SSA from the web. Actually, we are very active youth humanist activists in Nepal. So I am always in search of organizations like yours. I also went through the Humanist Network News, which helped me to find out about you. I also heard the organization's name when I was in the Atheist Center in India 3 months ago.

You can reach Uttam Niraula at [email protected] or [email protected]. For more information on SOCH, check out www.sochnepal.org or www.sochnepal.org/np .

This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 17 - The Harvard Conference.

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