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Nepal Monitor: The National Online Journal

Sapana Malla Gets 2008 Gruber Prize

The activist lawyer grabs more than NRs. 1 crore worth in cash and a gold medal for her role on women's issues.

July 8, 2008, New York, NY – The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation today announces that it will award the 2008 Gruber Women’s Rights Prize to the Nepali lawyer and activist Sapana Pradhan Malla and two other courageous activists who, at great risk to their own safety, have led successful efforts to advance women’s rights in their respective societies.

The Gruber Foundation Women’s Rights Prize will be awarded in a ceremony this fall celebrating the achievements of the recipients, who will share the $500,000 prize. In addition to the cash award, the three will each receive a gold medal.

The other two receipient are Yanar Mohammed – a co-founder of Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian – a leading Paletinian feminist scholar, therapist and activist.

“These women inspire us as they courageously fight for gender equality under the most difficult conditions of war and armed conflict – conditions that trigger deeply misogynistic ideologies and practices supported by nationalist and religious fundamentalism,“ says Pinar Ilkkaracan, co-recipient of the 2007 Gruber Foundation Women’s Rights Prize and member of the 2008 Women’s Rights Prize Selection Advisory Board. “Through their vision and dedication, these prize recipients have become the world’s conscience in the struggle for justice, peace, and equality between women and men.”

The Women’s Rights Prize of the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation is presented to an individual or group that has made significant contributions, often at great personal or professional risk, to furthering the rights of women and girls in any area and to advancing public awareness of the need for gender equality to achieve a just world.

The Peter and Patricia Gruber International Prize Program honors contemporary individuals in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Justice and Women’s Rights, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. The Selection Advisory Boards choose individuals whose contributions in their respective fields advance our knowledge, potentially have a profound impact on our lives, and, in the case of the Justice and Women’s Rights Prizes, demonstrate courage and commitment in the face of significant obstacles.

The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation honors and encourages educational excellence, social justice and scientific achievements that better the human condition.

Laureate Profile: Sapana Pradhan Malla
Sapana Pradhan Malla earned a Bachelor of Law degree from Tribhuvan University and a Masters of Law degree from Delhi University. A practicing lawyer before the Supreme Court of Nepal, she has been involved in almost all leading public litigation in that country, including cases involving legalization of abortion, criminalization of marital rape, and equality in marriage and family law. Due in large part to her efforts, more than 64 discriminatory laws of Nepal have been struck down. The Human Trafficking Act that she helped draft has become a legal model for the region. Pradhan Malla was instrumental in securing the most recent legal reforms protecting the fundamental reproductive and property rights of women in Nepal. She has also succeeded in getting the Court to agree to maintain confidentiality in cases related to violence against women and cases involving HIV and AIDS, and to enforce confidentiality in all stages of the justice system. In addition, she fought to ensure women’s right of participation in the army and in foreign employment.

Pradhan Malla has published extensively on the legal status of women in Nepal and has brought several landmark cases to Nepal’s Supreme Court. Her success is built on careful research, enabling her to find the evidence needed to present a compelling case. In spite of her success, she believes that progress will increase only when women are willing to assert their new rights. Despite marital rape becoming a punishable offense, for example, she believes that no woman would actually use the protection now afforded under law. Pradhan Malla stresses that Nepal, even as a secular nation, is still held back by a caste system. Dalit (lower-caste) women, for example, lag far behind the rest of the country in literacy and life expectancy. Their status also makes them vulnerable to being abducted and trafficked as sex workers, underscoring the cultural obstacles that Pradhan Malla confronts as she advocates for reform.

A member of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, Pradhan Malla participates in state restructuring through constitutional reform. She is also a strong advocate of women’s participation in the political process and, as a result of her efforts and influence, women now make up one-third of the Assembly. Pradhan Malla is president of the Forum for Women, Law & Development and vice president of the Legal Aid Consultancy Center, and serves as National Coordinator for the South Asian Women’s Law Association. Her dream is to ensure a comprehensive women’s rights agenda within the constitutional framework.


Posted by Editor on July 9, 2008 11:20 PM