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Equal Rights

Hundreds rally in Nepalese capital for women’s rights


Story by APNEWS

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Published on September 19, 2021 2:17 AM
 
 
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Hundreds of women's right activists and their supporters rallied in Nepal's capital on Friday to call for an end to violence and discrimination against women and the scrapping of a proposed law that would restrict travel for many women.

The protesters marching in the heart of Kathmandu chanted slogans demanding equality. Activists say even though the country's constitution guarantees equal rights to women, there is much more that needs to be done to make that a reality.

They point to the proposed law that would require women under age 40 to get permission from their family and local government to travel to the Middle East or Africa as a violation of human rights. The government has said...

Background

Women's rights in Nepal

Nepal, a Himalayan country situated in South Asia, is one of the poorest countries of the world. It has suffered from political instability and has had undemocratic rule for much of its history. There is a lack of access to basic facilities, people have superstitious beliefs, and there are high levels of gender discrimination. Although the Constitution provides for protection of women, including equal pay for equal work, the Government has not taken significant action to implement its provisions.

The status of women in Nepal remains very poor in terms of health, education, income, decision-making, and access to policy making. Patriarchal practices, which control these women's lives, are reinforced by the legal system. Women face systematic discrimination, particularly in rural areas. Literacy rates are substantially lower than men's, and women work longer hours. Violence against women is still common, and there are not enough women in professions. Women's representation has been ensured in constituent assembly, but women's equal participation in all state mechanisms is far from ideal.

One of the first forms of discrimination against women in Nepal began with the practice of Sati, which was eradicated by Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher, though even after that the patriarchal situation continued, with women receiving limited access to resources and opportunity. Few of the major issues faced by women were Gender Based Violence, Child marriage, trafficking of women, transitional justice, unequal representation and participation of women in decision making. Literacy rates in Nepal still remain low, at 52.74% . Despite improvement in recent years, the disparity in literacy rates between men and women still remains. In 2001, the rate of literacy for females stood at 42.49%. The low rate of literacy for women can be attributed to the discrimination they face at home.

Females face gender-based violence and this greatly limits their ability to attend school or receive proper education. Furthermore, religion restricts the opportunities for women to receive education. For example, the majority of the female Muslim population in Nepal is still deprived of basic education, with only 20% having had any level of education.

The percentage of women from rural areas who have never attended school: 51.1% as compared to the percentage of women from urban areas who have never attended school is 25% . This is reflected in the disparity in literacy rates, between women in rural areas, 36.5%, and those in urban areas, 61.5%. Literacy rates in rural areas are almost half that in urban areas. Although overall female participation in the workforce has increased, the majority of employed women are still heavily concentrated in the low-wage and more labor-intensive industries. Formal sector female participation is 6%. According to the 2008 report from CBS, there were 155 000 male professionals, but only 48 000 female professionals, about 31% of female professionals. This is in stark contrast to female participation in the subsistence agricultural sector, with female participation almost 160% that of male participation.

Due to the growing inequality and violence against women, free legal aid was made available by the government of Nepal through the enactment of Legal Aid Act 1997, though the majority target groups of women, children and disenfranchised are unable to access it. Women's rights were only taken seriously once Nepal was under democratic rule post 1990, and a constitution was formed stating equality between men and women as a fundamental right. The newly elected democratic government ratified numerous laws and international treaties specific to women, and The Nepal Treaty Act 1990 ensured that international human rights provisions will be given preference in case of conflict with domestic laws. The laws enforced in 1990 were only finally enacted in 2006, and since the 1990s, Public Interest Litigation was the one of the key tools used by women to voice their opinions and enactment of women's rights.

Gender-Based Violence Against Women

Gender-based violence towards women is a severe issue in Nepal where its women often find themselves susceptible to both public and domestic violence which constitutes rape, sexual abuse in the workplace and at home, and human trafficking. There is a persistence of harmful traditional practices deemed life-threatening such as Deuki and Chhaupadi . Based on the study by United Nations Population Fund's entitled Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women in Nepal, abused women are more inclined to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms, sexual dysfunction and various reproductive health problems.

In the recently published Nepal Human Rights Yearbook 2012 by Informal Sector Service Center , a study of all 75 districts across the country returned results of 648 women as victims of violence in 2011. In addition, the number of girls under the age of 18 who were affected stands at 379.

The proportion of Nepali women who have been subjected to domestic violence are estimated at 60 to 70 per cent. Gender-based violence is worse in rural communities where an estimated 81 per cent of women experience recurring domestic violence. These incidences include physical abuse by husbands, polygamy, dowry-related murders, and physical and psychological harassment by household members. Reasons for gender-based violence in Nepal are largely attributed to social taboos and superstitions associated with women and deeply entrenched beliefs that propagate derogatory attitudes toward female such as Chhori ko janma hare ko karma . Likewise, results derived from INSEC's monitoring of the situation indicated that subjecting women to domestic violence was considered a deep-rooted traditional practice. Survey results also show that 20 and 23 per cent of men and women in Nepal view domestic violence as being acceptable.

Despite efforts of various human rights and women's rights NGOs, together with international aid agencies, to lobby for the elimination of domestic violence through implementation of more effective measures, the 'Domestic Violence ' bill introduced in 2002 is at a standstill. Complaints by women's rights activists are directed towards the lackadaisical efforts of the law enforcement agencies in which disputes are settled without any charges pressed against the perpetrators. This is reflected in a statement by activist and former National Women Commission chairperson Bandana Rana, 'Often, police and local people try to settle the domestic dispute by pressing the women into accepting their "fate' as the society is still dominated by Hindu patriarchy with its own set of strict codes—many of which are in conflict with basic rights for women'.

In May 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic, the HRW reported that social media groups are abusing Nepali women and girls online. The rights group said that offenders are using intimate photos usually obtained from victims' social media accounts and also using hacking, coercion, or blackmail as a method. The impact of such incidents harms their mental health, reputations, relationships, and access to education and employment, the report added.

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