Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women remained a problem. Under the civil code, sentences for rape vary between five and 12 years, depending on the female victim’s age. The law also mandates five years’ additional imprisonment in the case of gang rape or rape of pregnant women or women with disabilities. The victim’s compensation depends on the degree of mental and physical torture. Under the law the definition of rape includes marital rape, and the husband can be jailed for three to six months. Most incidents of rape went unreported, although in those rape cases that were reported, police and the courts were responsive. During fiscal year 2010-11, 481 cases of rape and 151 cases of attempted rape were filed with police, compared with 376 cases of rape and 101 cases of attempted rape in the previous fiscal year, according to the Women’s Police Cell, a special unit of the NP that investigates crimes against women.
Domestic violence against women remained a serious problem. While few cases were reported, there was much anecdotal evidence that physical and verbal abuse was common. Violence against women was one of the major factors responsible for the poor health of women, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization. According to Amnesty International, in the first half of the year, more than 300 domestic violence cases were reported to police in the Kathmandu valley alone; many more went unreported. The domestic violence law imposes a fine of 3,000 to 25,000 rupees ($35 to $295), six months’ imprisonment, or both, on violators. Repeat offenders receive double punishment. Any person holding a position of public responsibility is subject to 10 percent greater punishment than is a person who does not hold such a position. Anyone who does not follow a court order is subject to a fine of 2,000 to 15,000 rupees ($23 to $175), four months’ imprisonment, or both.
Although the government passed the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act in 2009, many security officials and citizens were unaware of the law. The government’s effort to establish the needed structures to successfully implement the act were uncoordinated and incomplete. The majority of domestic violence cases were settled through mediation rather than legal prosecution.
Educational programs offered by NGOs for police, politicians, and the general public aimed to promote greater awareness of domestic violence. Police claimed to have women’s cells in each of the country’s 75 districts, but they had minimal resources and untrained personnel to deal with victims of domestic violence and trafficking. Police directives instruct officers to treat domestic violence as a criminal offense, but the directives were difficult to enforce because of entrenched discriminatory attitudes.
Although the law prohibits polygamy, it persisted. Polygamists are subject to a two-month prison term and a fine, but the second marriage is not invalidated. Violence surrounding polygamy remained a problem.
Harmful Traditional Practices: The dowry tradition was strong in the Tarai districts bordering India, and there were sporadic incidents of bride killing over dowry disputes. More often husbands or in-laws seeking additional dowry physically abused wives or forced women to leave so the men could remarry.
For example, on March 26, Bibha Devi Mandal’s husband, mother-in-law, and brothers-in-law, beat her to death for not bringing enough dowry. At year’s end police were investigating her death following her parents’ complaint.
Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected elderly rural women and widows with low economic status, especially those who belonged to the lower caste of Dalits. Shamans or other local authority figures publicly beat and otherwise physically abused alleged witches as part of exorcism ceremonies. The media and NGOs reported numerous cases of such violence during the year. There was no government mechanism to prevent such abuses or to provide compensation to those abused, but civil society organizations raised public awareness of the problem. Women accused of witchcraft were severely traumatized and suffered physical and mental abuse, including such acts being fed human excreta, being hit with hot spoons in different parts of the body, being forced to touch red-hot irons or breathe in chili smoke, or being perforated in their private organs.
During the year there were reports of cases of women being beaten after having been accused of witchcraft. For example, 41-year-old Gauri Devi Saha of Bara was severely beaten and forced to eat human waste by her neighbors, who accused her of having practiced witchcraft on May 5.
On November 23, Samkhu Devi Urawa of Bhokhra-3, Sunsari was attacked by her brother-in-law, Dukhan Lal Urawa, who accused her of witchcraft and being responsible for the death of his mother, Laliya Devi Urawa, and brother Dhurpa Urawa, who died two years earlier. The perpetrator was taken into custody, and a legal case continued at year’s end.
Sexual Harassment: The law contains a provision against sexual harassment, with a maximum penalty of a one-year prison sentence and fine of 10,000 rupees ($117). Government enforcement was weak. Sexual harassment was a problem, but lack of awareness as to what constitutes sexual harassment led victims not to report most incidents.
Sex Tourism: Thousands of women were forced into commercial sexual exploitation in other countries and increasingly within the country, according to organizations that provided services to sex workers and victims of human trafficking. According to the National Human Rights Commission Office of the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking, approximately one-fourth to one-third of all sex entertainment workers were children under the age of 18. The Human Trafficking and Transportation (Control) Act, 2007 and the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act 2009 provide for criminal penalties for exploitation, including human trafficking.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally may decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children and were not subject to discrimination, coercion, or violence regarding these choices. Contraception was available to both men and women. According to the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey, 43.2 percent of married women used a modern contraceptive method while 56.8 percent of married women had an unmet need for family planning. Forty-eight percent of mothers received prenatal care from a doctor, nurse, or midwife. The country made progress in reducing its maternal mortality rate from 850 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to an estimated 229 per 100,000 live births in 2010. Despite these improvements, the rate of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants was relatively low (36 percent) according to the health survey. According to the survey, women did not have access to life-saving interventions during pregnancy, delivery, and the postnatal period and were dying as a result, especially in remote areas. Men and women generally were diagnosed and treated equally for sexually transmitted infections.
Discrimination: Although the law provides protections for women, including equal pay for equal work, the government did not implement those provisions, including in many state industries.
Women faced systemic discrimination, particularly in rural areas, where religious and cultural traditions, lack of education, and ignorance of the law remained severe impediments to the exercise of basic rights, such as the right to vote or to hold property in one’s own name.
Citizenship is automatically conferred through either Nepali parent (see section 6, children). In practice, however, government officials often refused to grant citizenship documents based on the mother’s citizenship if a father’s identity was unknown or if he was a foreign national.
Despite the 2006 Gender Equality Act, discriminatory provisions remain in the law. According to INSEC, 62 laws have provisions that discriminate against women. For example, the law on property rights favors men in land tenancy and the division of family property. The law encourages bigamy by allowing men to remarry without divorcing if the first wife becomes incapacitated or infertile.
The Foreign Employment Act no longer requires a woman to get permission from the government and her guardian before seeking work through a foreign employment agency.
According to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, there were limitations to women’s access to fixed property and credit.