Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women remained a problem. Under the civil code sentences for rape vary between five and 15 years, depending on the female victim’s age. The law also mandates five years’ additional imprisonment in the case of gang rape, rape of pregnant women, or rape of a woman 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 2011-12, there were 555 cases of rape and 156 cases of attempted rape filed with police, compared with 48 cases of rape and 151 cases of attempted rape in the previous fiscal year, according to the Women’s Police Cell, a special NP unit 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 abuses were common. Violence against women was one of the major factors responsible for the poor health of women, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization. The domestic violence law imposes a fine of 3,000 to 25,000 rupees ($34 to $286), 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 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 $172), 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 implement the act successfully 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 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 generally prohibits polygamy, there are exceptions if the wife is infertile, sick, or crippled. According to the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey, 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men lived in polygamous unions. Polygamists not covered under the above exceptions are subject to a one- to two-year prison term and a fine, but the second marriage is not invalidated.
Harmful Traditional Practices: A woman’s family must pay the husband’s family a predetermined dowry based on the husband’s training and education. The tradition was strong in the Tarai districts bordering India, and there were sporadic incidents of bride killing over dowry disputes. For example, in July according to press reports, Binti Saha’s husband, father-in-law, and mother-in-law beat her to death and then burned her body because she failed to provide a motorcycle for her dowry. More often husbands or in-laws seeking additional dowry from the woman’s family physically abused wives or forced women to leave so the men could remarry.
Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected rural women, especially widows, the elderly, persons of low economic status, or members of the lower Dalit caste. Shamans or family members 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 as being fed human excreta, being hit with hot spoons in different parts of the body, being forced to touch hot irons or breathe in chili smoke, or having their genitals perforated .
During the year there were reports of women accused of witchcraft being beaten. For example, according to press reports, relatives of Sunita Pudasaini, a widow, beat her, gouged out an eye, and left her for dead after a shaman accused her of casting a spell on her cousin, causing infertility.
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 ($114). Sexual harassment was a problem and government enforcement was weak, but the NP, to general approval by women, initiated a special campaign to curb sexual harassment on public transportation. Lack of awareness over what constitutes sexual harassment led victims not to report many incidents.
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 27.5 percent of married women had an unmet need for family planning. From 2006 to 2011, 58 percent of mothers received prenatal care from a doctor, nurse, or midwife; 26 percent received care from trained health workers such as a health assistant, auxiliary health worker, or village health worker; and 15 percent received no prenatal care. The country made progress in reducing its maternal mortality rate from 539 per 100,000 births in 1996 to 281 per 100,000 births in 2010. The rate of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants was relatively low (36 percent) according to the health survey, but the government provided financial assistance to women seeking skilled delivery care in a health facility to promote safe motherhood. According to the survey, 43 percent of women had a postnatal checkup in the first two days after birth.
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 a woman’s name. The 2006 amendment to the Transfer of Property Act grants women equal shares of their parents’ inheritance and the right to keep their property after marriage, but many women were not aware of their rights, and others were afraid to challenge existing practice.
Citizenship is automatically conferred through either Nepali parent (see Children below). 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. Provisions that discriminate against women exist in 62 laws. 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.
In an attempt to protect women from trafficking and abuse, on August 9 the government declared that it would not permit women under the age of 30 to travel to the Persian Gulf region for domestic employment. According to Human Rights Watch, the new regulation would not prevent trafficking or abuse but would force women to seek irregular channels to the Gulf, putting them at greater risk of exploitation. The regulation was also viewed as discriminatory because young men were not similarly prohibited from traveling to the Gulf.
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.