Violence Against Women and Girls
Constitutional and Legal Provisions
The Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007) prohibits physical, mental or any other form of Violence Against Women (VAW) and declares that such acts shall be punishable by law. It also incorporates a separate article recognizing that women's rights, including reproductive rights, are fundamental. The Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) includes a prohibitory provision on GBV to be abided by both parties (the Seven Party Alliance and UCPN-M) to the agreement. It contains a specific provision on the rights of women and children that relates directly to the prevention of violence against women. The Rights of Women and Children under the CPA reads:
Both sides fully agree to special protection of the rights of women and children, to immediately stop all types of violence against women and children including child labor as well as sexual exploitation and abuse, and not to conscript or use children who are aged 18 or below in the armed force.
The Interim Constitution recognizes the right to equality as a fundamental right. It provides that all citizens are equal before law.
On 5 May, 2009 the Legislature Parliament of Nepal passed the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act, which defines physical, mental, sexual, financial as well as behavioral violence as domestic violence.
The Act includes physical and psychological violence within the definition of domestic violence. The Act also states that the reporting of the crime can be made both verbally or in writing. If the case does not get resolved through quasi-judicial bodies or mutual understanding, the victim can file a case directly to the courts. Furthermore, a third party can also file a report on behalf of the victim. It has also made provisions for interim relief to the victim of the domestic violence. The court can order interim protective measures for the entire duration of case proceedings.
The Gender Equality Act was passed in 2006. This Act repealed and amended 56 discriminatory provisions of various previous Acts and also incorporated provisions to ensure women's rights. Some key provisions amended by the Act are the provision that a daughter is required to return shared property upon marriage, the provision for summons issued by the court to be received by a male family member as far as possible and the provision for divorce in the case of not having children within 10 years of marriage. Further, the Act establishes sexual violence as a crime punishable by varying years of imprisonment, depending on the age of the victim.
Similarly, the Human Trafficking Act (2007) extended the definition of trafficking to include the offense of transportation for the purpose of trafficking. With this extended definition and other support measures, the new Act helps to control human trafficking and affords needed support and care for victims. Apart from these actions, the Supreme Court has also issued orders at different times prohibiting different malpractices that contribute to GBV. For example, the Supreme Court issued a directive order that required the government to declare Chhaupadi as a malpractice based on superstitious beliefs, to submit a report to the court on the impact and adverse consequences of the practice, and to immediately enact a new law to end it. Similarly, the court issued a directive order requiring the government to launch a massive awareness campaign to stop the exploitation of women accused of practicing witchcraft. These initiatives have helped to stop such malpractices against women.
The government's National Safe Motherhood Plan (2002-2017) recognizes GBV as an important issue for women's health. The Health Ministry has also implemented a program of care and support to survivors of violence at Paropakar Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu. Further, the Nepal Health Sector Implementation Plan 2010-2015 has outlined GBV as an integral component of health care provision. Training has been provided to doctors, nurses, laboratory staff, nurse assistants and managers on the need to improve the Quality of Clinic (QOC) services provided (151 providers trained through 5 workshops). Protocols on the management of GBV, including sexual abuse, have been developed and are now operational. These protocols will study the feasibility of implementing a screening and support program at Maternity Hospital, Kathmandu for GBV.
Apart from legal provisions, the Three Year Interim Plan (2007-2010) of the Government of Nepal has also identified the end of gender based violence as a key objective. The Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act 2066, as well as other national and international laws and conventions, also mandates the government to work more purposefully to address GBV. At the policy level, the Tenth Five Year Plan includes gender and human rights as crosscutting and sectoral issues, Gender Focal Points have been established in sectoral ministries and Task Forces have been established at central and district levels to check trafficking.
The government also adopted the policy of representation of 33 percent women in different government and political sectors. The government reaffirmed its commitments by signing the Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1991. Programmatically, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare conducted gender assessment studies and gender budget audits of seven ministries including Agriculture, Forest, Labor and Transport Management, Local Development, Women Children and Social Welfare, Health and Education. The Nepal Police has established Women and Children Service Centers to investigate crimes against women and children in all 75 districts. The government also records statistical information on gender related programs and women's contributions to household activities in the national accounts.
In 2009, the government established service centers in 15 districts: Panchthar, Sunsari, Solu, Saptari, Sarlahi, Makawanpur, Nawalparasi, Tanahun, Kavre, Baglung, Jumla, Dang, Bardia, Doti and Kanchanpur .
The service centers are categorized into district level and community level service centers. Similarly, the Ministry of Local Development has formed paralegal committees in all districts of Nepal. The same ministry has been actively involved in awareness raising activities at grassroots level. The ministry has also forwarded its action plan to all concerned authorities under its mandate. These centers provide food and accommodation along with medical services. It is not clear whether legal services are provided through these centers or not. When a member of the mapping team went to acquire information from the Ministry of Women Children and Social Welfare, he was directed to the Women's Department where he was given a guideline on how to operate a shelter. Besides this guideline they did not had any other information regarding women's issues
Nepal’s Constitution does not permit discrimination on the basis of sex and advocates special legal provisions to protect and advance the interests of women. The Interim Constitution of 2007 includes women's rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women as important liabilities and responsibilities of the State in legal and moral terms. (“Three Year Interim Plan 2007/08-2009/10”, NPC, p. 102).
Nepal has committed itself to important international conventions such as United Nations Millennium Declaration, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), all of which have a strong gender dimension (see appendix 1). CEDAW requires Nepal to change about 85 laws and 137 legal provisions that are discriminatory, a task which remains to be done. Overall, the laws discriminate against women in the areas of citizenship, property, education, employment, health, sexual offences, marriage and family relations, court proceedings and identity (“Unequal Citizens”, WB & DFID, p. 42).
Established in September 1995, the Ministry of Women Children & Social Welfare (MWCSW) is the major outcome of Nepal's commitment towards Beijing Platform for Action. MWCSW is a focal ministry for the overall development and coordination of all activities related to women, children and social welfare including senior citizens, orphans, helpless and disabled and handicapped people (www.nepalgov.gov.np). However, MWCSW lacks adequate financial and human resources to carry out its numerous responsibilities effectively. It has also largely failed to consider the priorities and needs of women from traditionally excluded castes and ethnic groups (“Unequal Citizens”, WB & DFID, p. 52).
The Ministry of Local Development (MLD) was the first to incorporate gender issues in development programmes in the early 1980s. Its major achievements include the institution of the Production Credit for Rural Women programme, field-based Women Development Officers (WDOs), the promotion of affirmative action for women and the requirement that User Groups must have at least 30 percent women members. The WDOs have now been shifted to MWCSW, which to some degree has sidelined the WDOs in relation to local development (“Unequal Citizens”, WB & DFID, p. 52-53).
The Interim Parliament (2006-2008) has passed a bill to ensure at least 33 percent women's representation in all the state machinery, which is also the target of the Three Year Interim Plan 2007/08-2009/10. Gender analysis and audit have been carried out for some line ministries' programs. Yet, despite of gender audits being carried out by the Ministries of Agriculture as well as Education and Health over the recent years with support from the UNDP’s Mainstreaming Gender Equity Programme, the kind of structural change implied by the term ‘gender mainstreaming’ has not occurred (“Unequal Citizens”, WB & DFID, p. 53). In the planning and execution of local development, women's participation has been made mandatory. In the Ministry of Finance (MoF), a gender responsive budget committee is functioning to look into gender issues in development programs, budgeting and their implementation (“Three Year Interim Plan 2007/08-2009/10”, NPC, p. 101).
The tenth five-year plan (2002-2007) which was also Nepal’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) acknowledged that exclusion is the main reason for the deprivation suffered by women. The PRSP, however, failed to present a realistic strategy and concrete mechanisms to mainstream inclusion.
Many Nepali women have been affected by the 12 year long armed conflict that ended in 2006. The conflict caused an erosion of many social values, trust and solidarity. Approximately 13000 people directly lost their lives due to the conflict and countless others indirectly. Furthermore, the development process slowed down, law and order deteriorated, basic infrastructure was destroyed, government services halted and the economy gradually collapsed.
Women have been affected negatively by the conflict in numerous ways, for instance:
- Increased economic hardship for women who have had to take up the role of breadwinners due to their husbands being killed, fleeing or disappearing
- Increased economic hardship for women due to worsened national economic situation, destroyed infrastructure and loss of personal property
- Heightened prevalence of gender based violence (sexual harassment, rape etc.)
- Human rights violations by Maoists and security forces
Nepal Police and GBV:
Nepal police unit has developed the ‘Gender Policy’ to address GBV at the policy level. They are currently in the process of introducing the ‘Gender Policy’ at all levels of the institution. The Nepal Police Headquarters has also developed the ‘Gender Responsive Investigation Skill Training Manual’ in collaboration with WOREC and UNFPA for senior and junior police personnel and it is now in the implementation stage
The interim constitution of Nepal 2007 has envisioned the right to equality and social justice for all. For effective implementation of this fundamental right, sexual violence has been declared a punishable crime and legal provisions are in place for punishment of the perpetrators. Nepal believes that gender equality cannot be achieved without guaranteeing sexual and reproductive health rights, and reaffirms to expanding access to sexual and reproductive health information and services across the country.
The Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act 2009, the Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, 2007 and the National Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Women and Children (2012), the National Commission on Women Act, 2006 and other national laws also mandate the Government of Nepal to work more purposefully to address gender based violence.