The situation of women

Nepal’s discriminatory social, legal and economic arrangements coupled with Hinduism’s patriarchal ideologies create a society in which women face structural inequality.

Women have less access to education leading to a lower income and fewer job opportunities than men. Female participation in public life is near non-existent.  Women do not enjoy many of the legal rights available to their male counterparts. Difficulty in acquiring healthcare and higher rates of malnutrition make Nepal one of the few countries where women have a shorter life expectancy than men.

These conditions have lead to the severe undervaluing of women as individuals, family members and within society as a whole. This has culminated in increased rates of sexual assault and domestic violence, economic dependency and the inability of women to access resources. Women therefore lag behind men in every indicator of development. They comprise the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak.

Legislation has the potential to foster and regulate social, political and economic relationships. This is reflected in the advancement of women rights relating to property, inheritance adoption, marriage and bodily integrity following Nepal’s assent to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 1991, the 11th amendment of the Muluki Ain (National Civil Code) in 2002 and the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act 2009. The effectiveness of these reforms hinges on training of judicial and executive bodies in their implementation.

Despite this progress, the existence and enforcement of provisions in domestic legislation that discriminate against women reflect parliament’s failure to fully harness the law’s potential. These provisions operate within a justice system whose legal processes and judicial proceedings favour men. The legal systems patriarchal character is reinforced by women’s unawareness of their rights and, if aware, by social, economic and cultural constraints that deter women from seeking legal assistance. 

The situation of children

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) affirms the rights of children to security, education, health, justice, survival and development.  Nepal signed the UNCRC in 1990. The UNCRC was partially codified through the Children’s Act 1992.

Although legislation is in place it is not adequately enforced and applied. Furthermore, like women, scarcity of resources prevents children from accessing the basic rights enshrined in these enactments. In Nepal:

·         23 per cent of young women do not complete primary education

·         51 per cent of women are married before they are 18 years of age

·         31 per cent of children between the ages of five and 14 are partake in child labour as internationally defined.

·         An estimated 990,000 children are orphans due to civil conflict and other social hardships

·         Thousands of girls are trafficked out Nepal for sexual exploitation.

Legal and social shortcomings result in inadequate consequences for violence against children, sexual exploitation and forced labour. Furthermore, harsh economic conditions, limited education and insufficient social support for parents and their children have lead to high rates of youth delinquency.

It is therefore fundamental that the government addresses the needs of children through well considered policies and programs. A well functioning Juvenile Justice System is essential to successful reintegration of young offenders.  Relentless advocacy for law reform, quality training for law implementers and more community awareness measures are required to improve the lives of children in Nepal.

The effect of conflict on women and children

Women and children were the primary victims of the 14 year civil conflict in Nepal and are bearing the brunt of its aftermath. They are targets for violence and rape and suffer extreme economic hardship due to the absence of their husband/father. Roadblocks and fighting act as further barriers to healthcare.

LACC strives to minimize the injustice faced by women and children due to armed conflict by contributing to the enactment and implementation of gender-sensitive legislation and reconciliation measures.