Human Rights situation in Nepal in peril after new constitution fails to be drafted
Jan 24, Kathmandu: Children rights and women rights abuses case in Nepal are steadily increasing, despite contrary claims from the nations human rights watch dog, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). In a recent discussion with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, in Kathmandu, NHRC’s Chief Sudip Pathak claimed that the human rights condition, has improved in the nation compared to what it was a decade back.
During the discussion on the human rights situation in Nepal especially related to violence against women (VAW), children rights, freedom of thought and expression, among others, Mr. Pathak stated that NHRC receives complaints ranging from violence against women (VAW), to torture, to children rights abuse. Of these, he informed most of complains are related to women and children rights abuse.
Child Welfare International, Nepal (CWIN) report, released a week earlier, however contradicts Mr Pathak’s claim that the scenario related human rights, child rights and women rights were improving. The report shows an alarming number of children being used in the commercial sex trade claiming that over 12,000 children have been affected by Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and over 13,000 girls are working in the night entertainment industry. The report further states that the numbers of children between 12-15 years old in Kathmandu Sex Industry has steadily increased from 11% in 2008 to 20% in 2012 and is rising.
Similarly, the US Department of Labor estimates as many as one in three children in Nepal work (88% of whom are employed in the agriculture sector). In the carpet industry specifically, the number is believed to be around 10,000 or so, according to Kul Gautam, former assistant secretary-general of the UN and ex-deputy executive director of UNICEF. Nepal lacks a compulsory education law and children aged 16 and 17 are excluded from the protections of the country’s hazardous work list, leaving children vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor.
Despite these grave child rights violations in Nepal the National Human Rights High Commission has its hands tied due to the political situation in Nepal. The nation is yet to deliver justice to war crimes committed by state and rebel forces (Maoist) during the decade long insurgency. Though the nation has been able to end the conflict through the 12 point peace process accord, political parties are yet to deliver justice. Pathak pointed to the ongoing peace process and claimed that the issues will be addressed once the nation gets the new constitution.
He agreed that certain laws prevent war time victims from reporting rape cases, there has been poor implementation of laws in the rural regions of the country, but added that despite not having a functioning constitution, Nepal has been able to make significant advancement in efforts to eliminate child labor, lay down the ground work to introduce new directives on rescue, rehabilitation, and reintegration of child laborers, preparing mechanism and human resources to monitor child labor, among others.
Nepal has implemented women friendly laws. However, due to lack of proper implementation, its women are still subjected domestic and intimate violence and rape, and the lack of implementation and loop holes in such laws itself. Some of the provisions in the such laws even limit the ability of victims to report cases.
War time rape victims in the country are still unable to voice their suffering as existing laws mandate that such crimes should be reported within 35-days from the day the offence is committed. “Both insurgents as well as the Nepal army have been held responsible for sexual violence in during the war, and though on paper we have establishments to help them heal, like the National Action Plan which has been formulated in accordance to UNSCR’s 1325 and 1820 resolution which focus on helping in the rehabilitation of women and girls who endured sexual violence during armed conflict, these establishments have failed at helping women in remote regions across the country,” said Devika Timilsina, human rights activist and program manager for the District workshops on Localizing Peace Mechanisms.
The National Plan of Action Against Gender-based Violence prepared by the Government of Nepal, states that gender-based violence will be controlled and security and protection will be provided to women and children victims of violence. The plan of action has set the objectives to undertake legal and institutional reforms for ending gender-based violence, ensuring the access of persons affected by gender-based violence to justice, establishing and strengthening community-based village-level mobile services for providing protection to victims of gender violence, strengthening the health sector for effectively addressing gender-based violence, raising public awareness and promoting zero tolerance against gender violence, facilitating the economic and social empowerment of women and children for combating gender violence and ensuring coordination, communication and monitoring works among the stakeholders involved in the implementation of the plan.
However, according to him NAP committee in rural areas still do not have psychosocial counselors and gender experts to help women deal with sensitive issues like rape. Support Nepal’s findings on local peace mechanisms too shows that there is a huge gap in the NAP efforts as it has not been implemented properly.
“The Nepali government needs to recognize war-time rape as a crime as present laws do not allow rape victims to take perpetrators to court and even if they do they are denied justice. And, nor are there effective mechanisms to provide rape victims with the counseling and care they require,” says Amber Raut, a human right activist and an advocate. “We had taken several war time rape cases to court and after being rejected multiple times we had taken a case to supreme court just to exhaust our options at the national level. As expected we were denied justice even by the supreme court also. So now we are taking the case to international court of justice,” he said.
Despite various efforts by human rights groups, the 35-day limit to report a rape case has forced women into darkness while their perpetrators are allowed to walk free, such laws have also raised serious questions on of gender equality in Nepal.
NHRC is aware of these loopholes in the law but has not been able to do much in this regard. “We have sent the government recommendations and looked into the reported cases and once the Truth and Reconciliation Committee is formed than these cases will be investigated, but at this phase we need to understand that everyone’s attention is on the constitution,” Pathak said.
According to him out of the 10,507 human rights violation complaints they received in a period of ten years from 2000-2010, 2872 cases have been solved, 2,486 cases have been pending, dismissed and 386 cases have been recommended to the government.
On a different note, Pathak informed that the independence and autonomy are the major challenges that the institution is facing. “At times, we do tend to have problems with the government, but the incumbent government has been serious towards protecting human rights and in responding to cases of human rights violations. Such conditions have made our relationship cordial,” he said.
The Oslo Times