Nepal’s lawmakers Tuesday elected President Bidya Bhandari for a second term, extending the tenure of the Himalayan nation’s first female head of state for another five years. Bhandari took nearly two-thirds of the vote to retain her position as ceremonial head of state, the election commission confirmed. Bhandari, who was backed by the ruling Communist bloc, was widely expected to defeat her sole opponent. Her first five years in office have been largely uncontroversial. Critics say she has not done enough to advance women’s rights in deeply patriarchal Nepal — though her role is largely ceremonial. Late last year she signed into law a revamp of the country’s ancient penal code, which criminalises the dowry system and bans an old Hindu practice that banishes woman from the home while menstruating. The 56-year-old took up politics in her teens, joining the fight to overturn the monarchy’s centuries-long rule and later marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari. It was after her husband’s death in a mysterious car accident in 1993 that the mother of two became a prominent voice, riding a wave of sympathy to win a seat in parliament. As Nepal’s political map was being redrawn after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency in 2006 and overthrow of the king two years later, Bhandari campaigned hard to bring woman’s voices to parliament. Published in Daily Times, March 14th 2018.