Dowries Banned by Nepal
Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister, Prachanda, has banned the dowry system and criminalised caste-based discrimination to win public support for his faltering government.
In a 30-minute national televised address, Mr Prachanda expressed dissatisfaction over his Government's performance and called on all parties to forge a new political understanding.
"I would like to appeal to all the political parties to come forward for a new political consensus to build a peaceful and prosperous Nepal," he said.
The former rebel leader, whose nom-de-guerre means "the fierce one", took charge of Nepal after the constituent assembly abolished the unpopular monarchy last year.
In recent months there has been an upsurge in reports of dowry-related violence against women in Nepal's far-flung districts. Mr Prachanda said the system would be "completely banned" within a week.
Mr Prachanda called caste-based discrimination inhuman, and said those who faced discrimination were "the most oppressed in the country". The caste system was "a national shame".
The untouchable Dalit caste accounts for 14 per cent of the 27 million people in Nepal. Reports of discrimination against them in rural areas are frequent and include bans on worshipping at some Hindu temples or drinking from water taps or wells.
"Untouchability is a heinous social crime and stern actions will be taken against the offenders by amending the law if necessary," Mr Prachanda said.
Public frustration is growing over the poor performance of the Government, which won power in an election last April. Mr Prachanda admitted he had struggled to deliver on earlier promises of reform.