Nepal (CEDAW 14-11-2018)
The Committee considered the sixth periodic report of Nepal (CEDAW/C/NPL/6) at its 1631st and 1632nd meetings (see CEDAW/C/SR.1631 and
CEDAW/C/SR.1632), held on 23 October 2018. The Committee’s list of issues and questions is contained in CEDAW/C/NPL/Q/6, and the responses of Nepal are contained in CEDAW/C/NPL/Q/6/Add.1.
D. Principal areas of concern and recommendations
Access to justice
10. The Committee welcomes the establishment of judicial committees at the local level and takes note of the drafting of the integrated free legal aid policy and the planned reform of the free legal aid scheme. It expresses its concern, however, about the following:
(a) The low level of awareness among women and girls of their rights and the mechanisms available for gaining access to justice and seeking remedies;
(b) The lack of targeted financial support and legal aid in commonly spoken languages for women facing intersecting forms of discrimination;
(c) That the statute of limitations, which provides for a period of one year to file cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence, fails to take into account the stigma that women and girls face when reporting cases of sexual and gender-based crimes and, therefore, fosters impunity for such crimes;
(d) The fact that judicial and law enforcement officers, in particular at the local level, prevent the registration of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, do not comply with the rulings of higher courts and fail to execute such judgments.
- The Committee recommends that the State party, in line with its general recommendation No. 33 (2015) on women’s access to justice:
(a) Reinforce targeted outreach activities to disseminate information on the legal framework and the available mechanisms for gaining access to justice and legal aid schemes and promote a culture and a social environment in which justice-seeking by women is viewed as both legitimate and acceptable, rather than as a cause for additional discrimination or stigmatization;
(b) Provide targeted financial support and legal aid in commonly spoken languages for women facing intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination, such as Dalit women, indigenous women, including Madhesi and Tharu women, women belonging to religious minority groups, women with disabilities, women living in remote areas, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, intersex persons and displaced and migrant women;
(c) Repeal the statute of limitations provision on the registration of cases of sexual violence in all contexts to ensure effective access for women to justice for the crime of rape and other sexual offences;
(d) Provide mandatory training through the national Judicial Academy to all members of the judiciary, including members of judicial committees, and law enforcement officers on women’s rights, as well as on gender-sensitive investigation and interrogation procedures in cases of gender-based violence against women, in line with commitments made in the context of the second review cycle of the State party under the universal periodic review mechanism of the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/31/9, para. 122.46).
Stereotypes and harmful practices
- The Committee welcomes the criminalization of a number of harmful practices, including chhaupadi, dowry, accusation of witchcraft, discrimination against Dalit persons, and child marriage. It expresses its concern, however, about the following:
(a) The fact that, notwithstanding the criminalization of many harmful practices, chhaupadi (isolating menstruating women and girls), child marriage, dowry, son preference, polygamy, discrimination against widows, accusations of witchcraft, discrimination against Dalit and indigenous women and girls, jhuma (offering young girls to Buddhist monasteries to perform religious functions), deuki (offering girls to deities to fulfil religious obligations) and dhan-khaane (parents receiving money for the solemnization of the marriage of their children) remain persistent in the State party;
(b) That adoption of the bill to amend some acts relating to country codes to repeal provisions of the Civil Code that are inconsistent with the Criminal Code, inconsistencies which undermine the State party’s efforts to stop child marriage and impede access for victims to legal remedies, remains pending;
(c) Discrimination against intersex persons, namely, abuse, reported infanticide, forced marriage and the conduct of medically unnecessary procedures on Nepali intersex infants and children on the territory of the State party or abroad before they reach an age at which they are able to provide their free, prior and informed consent;
(d) The underreporting of harmful practices and insufficient short- and long-term support for victims.
- Recalling its previous recommendation (CEDAW/C/NPL/CO/4-5, para. 18), the Committee recommends that the State party, in line with the joint general recommendation No. 31 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women/general comment No. 18 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2014) on harmful practices, and with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, to eliminate all harmful practices:
(a) Expedite the adoption of legislation prohibiting all forms of harmful traditional practices, investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of such practices, impose adequate sanctions and provide compensation to victims;
(b) Expedite the development of a comprehensive strategy, with concrete goals and resources, in collaboration with civil society and local government, to raise awareness among all stakeholders, including the police, the judiciary, village-based health networks and religious and community leaders, of legislation on harmful practices and of the effects of those practices on the lives of women and girls;
(c) Prioritize the adoption of the bill to amend some acts relating to country codes to bring provisions of the Civil Code regarding the legal age of marriage into line with the Criminal Code, which sets that age at 20 years;
(d) Adopt legislative provisions that explicitly prohibit the performance of unnecessary surgical or other medical procedures on intersex children before they reach the legal age of consent and train medical and psychological professionals on the rights of intersex persons;
(e) Ensure that victims of harmful practices can file complaints without fear of retribution or stigmatization and that they have access to effective remedies and victim support, such as legal, social, medical and psychological assistance and shelters.
- The Committee notes with appreciation the ongoing deliberations on the public health bill, which contains provisions on the provision of non-discriminatory health services free of cost and the introduction of components on reproductive health in school curricula. It is concerned, however, that:
(a) Education on reproductive health in school does not equip students with the knowledge and life skills required to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy and its consequences;
(b) Abortion is criminalized in the State party, whereas estimations indicate that 62 per cent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion and that more than half of those abortions are conducted clandestinely, endangering the health and life of the mother;
(c) Women and girls have insufficient access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health-care services and information, resulting in high maternal mortality rates and prevalence of uterine prolapse, obstetric fistula, cervical cancer and reproductive tract infections;
(d) There is persistent discrimination by health-care providers against Dalit women, indigenous women, women with disabilities, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, intersex persons, women in prostitution and women from remote areas.
- The Committee recommends that the State party, in line with its general recommendation No. 24 (1999) on women and health, and taking into account target 3.1, to reduce the global mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, and target 3.7, to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, of the Sustainable Development Goals:
(a) Incorporate age-appropriate and gender-sensitive comprehensive sexuality education curricula that include information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, responsible sexual behaviour and measures to prevent early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, at all levels of education, and train teachers to deliver those curricula;
(b) Amend the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act to fully decriminalize abortion in all cases, to legalize it at least in case of risk to the health of the mother, in addition to the cases for which it is already legalized, including in cases of rape, incest, severe fetal impairment and risk to the life of the mother, and allocate sufficient resources to raise awareness of safe abortion clinics and services;
(c) Reinforce measures and allocate adequate resources to ensure that all women and girls, including those in rural and remote areas, have access to high-quality and age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health care, in line with commitments made in the context of the universal periodic review (A/HRC/31/9, para. 122.95);
(d) End discrimination by health-care providers against Dalit women, indigenous women, women with disabilities, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, intersex persons and women in prostitution, by raising awareness among providers, with the support of female community health volunteers, of the rights of those groups and encouraging reporting.