Rape and Domestic Violence: Violence against women and girls remained a problem. Under the civil code, prison sentences for rape vary between five and 15 years depending on the 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 abuse. The Bill to Amend Some Nepal Acts to Maintain Gender Equality and End Gender-Based Violence, which was signed into law in October 2015, increased the sentence for marital rape from three to six months’ imprisonment to three to five years’ imprisonment. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for filing rape charges from 35 days to 180 days. Despite its extension of the statute of limitations, human rights groups highlighted concerns with the act and its implications for addressing sexual violence committed during the country’s 10-year conflict.
Many incidents of rape went unreported although NGOs stated that reporting has increased, in part due to improved awareness. For rape cases that were reported, police and the courts were responsive. According to NGOs, police frequently prioritized cases of sexual violence, and the District Court Regulations stipulates that judges should expedite cases of rape, human trafficking, and other violent crimes.
Rape, sexual violence, and other forms of victimization suffered disproportionately by women and girls during the country’s 10-year conflict remained unresolved and unaddressed. Men and boys also were victims of rape and sexual assault during the conflict.
Domestic violence against women and girls remained a serious problem. There was much anecdotal evidence that physical and verbal abuse was common, with human rights organization INSEC reporting an increase in incidents of reported domestic violence during the year, in part due to increased awareness. Violence against women and girls was believed to be one of the major factors responsible for women’s relative poor health, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization. Additionally, NGOs reported that the practice of early and forced marriage, which remained prevalent, limited girls’ access to education and increased their susceptibility to domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act of 2009 allows for settling complaints of domestic violence through mediation with an emphasis on reconciliation. Legal prosecution under the act was usually pursued only when mediation failed. The act’s criminal provisions stipulate a fine of NRs 3,000 to 25,000 ($30 to $250), six months’ imprisonment, or both, for 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 NRs 2,000 to 15,000 ($20 to $150), four months’ imprisonment, or both.
Reports from women’s rights defenders suggested that the majority of incidents of domestic violence against women and girls were unreported, although reporting has increased, in part due to improved awareness. According to INSEC, although police conducted training on enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act, most reported incidents were resolved through mediation, and repeat violations after reconciliation by the same perpetrators were not uncommon. In addition, cases of severe domestic violence are sometimes filed under the Domestic Violence Act rather than as crimes with greater punishments, such as assault, battery, or attempted murder. Nonetheless, the Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) stated that domestic violence cases were increasingly handled by women and children service centers (commonly known as women’s cells) of the Nepal Police, and that in these instances the police were more responsive and treated the victims better. District women and children offices offered public education and psychosocial services and operated hotlines and shelters in 35 districts to address all forms of gender-based violence, including violence that affects child brides. According to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, although the government shelters welcome victims of child marriage into the shelters, the number of such victims seeking shelter and support is near zero.
NGOs offered educational programs for police, politicians, and the general public to promote greater awareness of domestic violence. The Nepal Police had women’s cells staffed by female officers in each of the country’s 75 districts to make it easier for women and girls to report crimes to the police. The number of women’s cells and officers assigned to them increased substantially during the last three years. According to the Women and Children Service Directorate, many women’s cells were not fully operational, but the Nepal Police, with outside assistance, endeavored to build and improve their infrastructure and capacity. NGOs stated that despite improvements, resources and training to deal with victims of domestic violence and trafficking were insufficient. Although police guidelines call on officers to treat domestic violence as a criminal offense, this was difficult to implement outside of the women’s cells due to entrenched discriminatory attitudes. NGOs reported that girls, including those forced into early marriage, are less aware of their rights and are more susceptible to social pressure. As a result, they are less likely to file a complaint with the police or seek services from the government or NGOs.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers’ 2011 standard operating procedure for prevention of and response to gender-based violence (GBV) has led to the establishment of service centers in 17 districts, rehabilitation centers in eight districts, and hospital-based one-stop crisis management centers in 17 districts to provide treatment, protection, and psychosocial and legal support for survivors of GBV. Gender experts say the standard operating procedure has led to improved coordination among police, NHRC, National Women’s Commission, chief district officers, local authorities, community mediation centers, and NGOs working to address violence against women and girls. In remote areas, however, awareness of resources for women and girls and the ability of the government to enforce legislation governing GBV and child marriage remained low.
Although the law generally prohibits polygamy, there are exceptions if the wife is infertile, sick, or crippled. According to the latest Nepal Demographic Health Survey in 2011, 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.
Other Harmful Traditional Practices: The constitution criminalizes violence against or oppression of women based on religious, social, or cultural traditions and gives victims the right to compensation. According to traditional practice, a bride’s family must pay the husband’s family a predetermined amount, or dowry, based on the husband’s training and education. The practice of paying dowries is illegal, with penalties of up to NRs 10,000 ($100) and prison sentences of up to three years. Additionally, the 2015 Act to Amend Some Nepal Acts to Maintain Gender Equality and End Gender-Based Violence stipulates that any psychological abuse of women, including asking for dowry, humiliation, physical torture, and shunning women for not providing a dowry, is punishable. Nevertheless, dowries remained common, especially in the Terai region. Government agencies documented incidents of dowry-related violence, recommended interventions, and occasionally rescued victims and offered them rehabilitation services.
The law does not allow mediation of dowry-related violence. NGOs nevertheless stated that local communities often pressure victims not to file criminal complaints of dowry-related violence, or to withdraw complaints, and then facilitate mediation between the victim and perpetrator. Women’s rights activists stated that the high cost of dowries significantly contributed to gender-based violence in much of the Terai region, where there were sporadic incidents of killing or attempted killing of brides over dowry disputes, despite efforts to eradicate the practice. Activists claimed that in Dhanusa district, for example, the cost of a dowry had increased over the past several years from the cost of a cow (NRs 25,000 or $250) to between NRs 400,000 and NRs two million ($4,000 to $20,000), demanded in cash. In some cases, as part of a pre-dowry agreement, the bride’s family will pay the tuition fee for the bridegroom to pursue academic study. Activists reported that many men left the country to work abroad to earn money to pay for family members’ dowries, which left the men’s wives more vulnerable to abuse.
Traditional beliefs about witchcraft negatively affected rural women, especially widows, the elderly, persons of low economic status, or members of the Dalit caste. Shamans or family members publicly beat and otherwise physically abused alleged witches as part of exorcism ceremonies. Media and NGOs reported numerous cases of such violence, and civil society organizations raised public awareness of the problem. Women, and in some instances men, accused of witchcraft were severely traumatized and suffered physical and mental abuse, including 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, having their genitals perforated, or being banished from their community. According to reports compiled by INSEC, 51 women accused of witchcraft were victims of violence in 2015, compared with 89 in 2014, with at least 12 victims in the first half of 2016. Government agencies recorded incidents of violence related to witchcraft allegations, recommended interventions, and occasionally rescued victims and offered them rehabilitation services; however, as with dowry-related violence, communities often forced victims into mediation with perpetrators in violation of the law.
The 2015 Anti-Witchcraft (Crime and Punishment) Act, the first legal mechanism to address directly such abuse, imposes prison sentences of five to 10 years and fines of up to NRs 100,000 ($1,000) for those who physically or mentally abuse women accused of being witches or men accused of sorcery. It also imposes prison sentences of up to five years for those who evict supposed witches or banish them from their communities. Information was unavailable on the number of individuals prosecuted under the act in 2016. INSEC stated that because the act was passed in August 2015, people remained confused about which law to cite in registering and prosecuting anti-witchcraft cases.
The practice of “chhaupadi” (expelling women and girls from their homes during menstruation and sometimes following childbirth, including forcing women and girls to reside in cattle sheds) continued to be a serious problem. Chhaupadi persists despite a 2005 Supreme Court decision outlawing the practice and guidelines on eliminating it issued in 2008 by the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare. The practice puts adolescent girls, women, and infants who are expelled with their mothers at risk of exposure to extreme elements, predators, and infection. The most recent Nepal Multi-Index Survey in 2010 reported that while 19 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 nationwide practiced chhaupadi, the problem was particularly acute in the hilly regions in the country’s mid- and far-west, where approximately 50 percent of women followed the practice. Women in Kathmandu also reported being forced to practice a less extreme form of chhaupadi and generally were not allowed in the kitchen or any place where religious rituals were being practiced. Chhaupadi directly limited many girls’ access to education for a large portion of the academic year.
Sexual Harassment: The 2014 Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Elimination) Act allows the top administrative official in a district to impose up to six months’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of NRs 50,000 ($500), or both, against a perpetrator, once a series of internal workplace processes to address a complaint have been exhausted. According to women’s rights activists, the law provides adequate protective measures and compensation for victims, but the penalties are insufficiently severe and the law does not cover the informal sector, where sexual harassment is most common. According to INSEC, no reports of incidents of sexual harassment were filed under the act during the year. NGOs and government officials stated it was too early to assess implementation of the act, which came into force in February 2015.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals generally could decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Due to the prevalence of child marriage, however, many girls faced social pressure to have children before being emotionally ready and before their bodies are able to bear children safely. Contraception was available to both men and women. According to the latest UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-sponsored Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey conducted in 2014, 47 percent of married women used a modern contraceptive method and 2.5 percent used a traditional method. The 2014 survey indicated that 25 percent of married women had an unmet need for family planning. In addition, awareness of contraception and family planning practices remained limited in remote areas.
According to the World Health Organization, the maternal mortality rate in 2015 was 258 deaths per 100,000 live births, down from 444 deaths in 2005. With more than 75 percent of the national health budget directed towards maternal and childcare, the Ministry of Health endeavored to decrease maternal mortality by providing financial assistance to women seeking skilled delivery care in a health facility and to family planning services. Skilled birth attendants assisted in 56 percent of deliveries according to the 2014 UNICEF-sponsored survey, a 20 percent increase from 2011. Preliminary findings from the Health Facility Survey released in April note that antenatal care services are available to 98 percent of women and services for sexually transmitted infections are available in 74 percent of facilities, on average. Normal childbirth delivery services are available in about half of facilities countrywide, but in only 33 percent of facilities in Terai region.
Discrimination: Although the law provides protections, women faced systemic discrimination, including in employment (see section 7.d.). Discrimination was most common 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. Dalit women in particular faced discrimination by virtue of their gender and caste status. The law 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. The law also grants widows complete access and authority to the estate of their deceased husbands; however, traditional attitudes stigmatizing and shunning widows persisted, and communities often ignored the law while the government did not take sufficient measures to enforce it.
The Gender Equality Act adopted in 2006–and more than 60 other laws–contain discriminatory provisions. 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 is incapacitated or infertile. The constitution, however, confers rights for women that had not previously received legal protection, including rights equal to those of their spouses in property and family affairs, and special opportunities in education, health, and social security.
The constitution does not allow Nepali women to convey citizenship to their children independent of the citizenship of the child’s father (see section 2.d.) and has no specific provision for naturalization of foreign husbands married to Nepali wives.
Birth Registration: According to the constitution, citizenship is derived from one Nepali parent, but a child born to a Nepali woman and a foreign citizen father may obtain citizenship only through naturalization. The constitution also states that children of unknown fathers may obtain citizenship through their mothers. Despite a 2011 Supreme Court decision that permits applicants to seek citizenship through either their father or mother, in practice many have been denied citizenship due to lack of access to local authorities, or lack of awareness of the law by applicants or government officials. This led to difficulty in school admissions. Children whose parents were unknown were considered citizens until their parents were identified. In practice, children without parents, such as street children, faced many bureaucratic hurdles since local authorities often required birth certificates. Those in institutional care could attain citizenship through the guardianship of their respective institutions, but such children sometimes encountered similar obstacles.
Education: The constitution makes primary education compulsory nationwide. In June, the country’s Education Act was amended, dividing the education system into Basic Education (grades 1-8), which is free and compulsory, and Secondary Education (grades 9-12), which is neither free nor compulsory. Although government policy had previously provided free primary education for all children between the ages of five and 12, the families of most students bore some costs for examinations and uniforms. The government reported that more than 95 percent of school-age children attended primary schools with gender parity. A gender gap in secondary education, however, persisted with a reported two-thirds of adolescent girls in rural areas not attending school. The literacy rate for women was approximately 57 percent versus 75 percent for men, according to the 2011 census. Some school-age girls did not attend public school due to the absence of separate or proper toilets for girls, reports of violence against girls, early and forced marriage, vulnerabilities posed by geographic distance from home to school, parents’ unwillingness to educate girls, cost of schooling, and a lack of trained female teachers. The Department of Education stated that 31 percent of public schools did not have separate toilets for girls. The government continued the process of establishing separate washroom facilities for girls and boys in public schools, according to NGOs.
Government officials stated they were concerned about the impact of the 2015 earthquakes on the education sector. According to the Ministry of Education, about 34,500 classrooms in both public and private schools were destroyed or damaged beyond use. A further 9,986 classrooms sustained minor damage and would need to undergo a thorough structural assessment before they could be used. The earthquake interrupted the education of an estimated two million children. According to the government’s Post Disaster Recovery Framework released in May, approximately 6,500 Temporary Learning Centers have been established, and the Ministry of Education stated that the majority of children in earthquake-affected areas were able to access education.
Medical Care: The government provided basic health care free to children and adults although parental discrimination against girls often resulted in impoverished parents giving priority to their sons when seeking medical services.
Child Abuse: Violence against children, including sexual abuse, was reportedly widespread. NGOs stated that in part due to increased awareness, there were more reports of such violence, but there were no reliable estimates on the level of abuse. The government has some mechanisms to respond to child abuse and violence against children, such as special hotlines and the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), which has chapters in all 75 districts. In some locations these agencies did not provide adequate support to the NGOs that operated the helplines. According to the NGO Children and Women in Social Service and Human Rights (CWISH), with the exception of allegations of sexual abuse of children, police were insufficiently responsive to reports of child abuse, often mediating the cases instead of pursuing criminal investigations.
The government and NGOs expressed concern about the increased vulnerability of children following the 2015 earthquake. The government took action against abuse of children in areas impacted by the earthquake, but according to NGOs, these measures were insufficient. The police monitored displaced persons camps and the government, in cooperation with NGOs, set up child-friendly spaces in these camps. Child rights activists stated that in informal settlements for displaced persons outside of these camps, large numbers of children not in school were at risk of sexual abuse. More than a year after the earthquake, official estimates were not available of the number of children who remained out of school.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits marriage for both boys and girls before the age of 20. Families in many areas sometimes forced their young children to marry. According to a UNICEF survey published in January 2015, the prevalence of early and forced marriage remained high although it had decreased since 2002. Nearly 49 percent of women aged 20 to 49 were married or in a union before age 18 while 15.5 percent of women aged 15 to 49 were married or in a union before age 15. According to the same study, 24.5 percent of women aged 15 to 19 were married or in a union. NGOs expressed concern that the economic impact of the 2015 earthquake could cause the rate of child marriage to increase.
Social, economic, and cultural values promoted the practice of early and forced marriages, especially common in the Dalit and Madhesi communities. The law sets penalties for violations according to the age of the girls involved in child marriage. The penalty includes both a prison sentence and fine with the fees collected going to the girl involved. The Civil Code provides that the government must take action whenever a case of child marriage is filed with authorities.
The government worked with local child rights groups and international donors on the problem of early and forced marriage, although cases often were unreported and law enforcement rarely enforced legislation to prevent early and forced marriage. A number of government child protection and welfare programs, such as scholarship programs targeting girls, attempted to encourage girls to stay in school. In March the government announced a national strategy against child marriage that aims to improve education, economically empower girls, engage men and boys, improve services, and implement existing laws and policies.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem, according to NGOs. There were reports of boys and girls surviving on the streets in prostitution and of underage girls employed in dance bars, massage parlors, and cabin restaurants (a type of brothel). The minimum age for consensual sex is 16. The penalties for rape vary according to the age of the victim and the relationship. Conviction for rape can result in 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment if the victim is under 10 years of age, eight to 12 years’ if the victim is between 10 and 14 years of age, six to 10 years’ if the victim is between 14 and 16 years of age, five to eight years’ if the victim is between 16 and 20 years of age, and five to seven years if the victim is over 20 years of age. Conviction for attempted rape may be punished by half the penalty provided for rape.
There is no specific law against child pornography, but the Children Act stipulates that no person can involve or use a child for an immoral profession, and photographs cannot be taken or distributed for the purpose of engaging a child in an immoral profession. In addition, photographs that tarnish the character of the child may not be published, exhibited, or distributed. Violators of these sections of the act are subject to fines of up to NRs 10,000 ($100), up to one year in prison, or both. According to the NGO Change Nepal, child pornography cases have also been tried under the Criminal Code as “intent to rape,” for which the punishment is also a fine of up to NRs 10,000 ($100) and a sentence of up to one year in prison, or both. Other legal experts stated that if a minor has been sexually assaulted in the production of pornography, the perpetrator can be charged with rape, for which the punishment is up to 15 years in jail depending on the age of the victim.
Displaced Children: A large number of children remained displaced as a result of the 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks (see section 2.d.). The government did not have comprehensive data on children affected by the decade-long Maoist conflict, including the original number of internally displaced and the number who remained displaced. In a 2009 report based on information from 53 districts, the CCWB recorded 9,691 children displaced with both of their parents, 3,930 children who lost one parent, and 1,657 children who lost both parents. Estimates of the number of children who remained displaced varied widely.
Institutionalized Children: Abuse and mistreatment in orphanages and children’s homes reportedly was common. An NGO working in this field estimated that approximately 10 percent of registered children’s homes met the minimum legal standards of operation. The NGO also reported no significant change in the level or degree of abuse of children compared to previous years. A 2013 study by CWISH showed that few such homes in the Kathmandu Valley met CCWB standards although they provided some basic services. NGOs reported that after the 2015 earthquakes, the CCWB and district child welfare boards showed an increased commitment to conducting inspections and playing an active role in rescuing victims of abuse from children’s homes. NGOs stated that the CCWB focused its attention on homes that were in moderate violation of the government’s minimum standards rather than homes where more severe physical abuse was reported. They also reported that political factors played a role in determining which homes the CCWB and police targeted for inspections and rescue operations. Additionally, the monitoring did not cover the estimated 50 percent of homes that were unregistered.
An NGO estimated that at least two-thirds of the children in registered homes were not orphans, and the figure for unregistered homes was comparable. The CCWB stated that many children in institutions were inaccurately presented as orphans or destitute to attract the sympathy of fee-paying foreign volunteers and donors. According to the same NGO, staff sometimes threatened children if they revealed the truth of their parentage, or abused, starved, or otherwise mistreated the children to attract sympathy and financial support. In cases where the CCWB participated in rescue raids, some homes reportedly lost their operating licenses and were prohibited from reopening for five years.
The government took action to prevent and detect institutional abuse of children after the 2015 earthquake, especially following numerous reports of cases in which desperate parents turned over their children to strangers who promised them education and safety in Kathmandu. In response, the government banned the transport of children unaccompanied by a legal guardian to another district without the approval of the District Child Welfare Board (DCWB), increased monitoring of child-welfare homes, and temporarily suspended the registration of new homes. Additionally, the police patrolled displaced persons camps and enhanced monitoring of transportation hubs. Children’s rights and anti-trafficking organizations said that the initiatives, which lasted through February, were largely successful but that loopholes existed and the initiatives did not go far enough.
In March the CCWB and Nepal Police raided the children’s home Sahara Bal Sudhar Grihar in Kathmandu, rescuing 29 children permanently residing in the facility. According to NGO and government officials, sanitary conditions in the home were extremely poor, there was little adult supervision, the building had unrepaired earthquake damage, children were forced to scavenge for firewood to cook or heat water, and there were no physical security measures in place. Additionally, there was evidence that children were being moved in and out of the home on a regular basis. The families of some children had reportedly paid NRs 40,000 ($400) to enroll them in the home with the expectation they would attend a good school. The DCWB confiscated Sahara Bal Sudhar Grihar’s registration certificate, tax certificate, and audit report, and the facility was temporarily shut down.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was a small Jewish community in the country, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability or physical condition and contains additional rights for persons with disabilities that did not appear in the 2007 interim constitution. These include the right to free higher education for all physically disabled citizens who are “financially poor” and the provision of special instructional materials and curricula for persons with vision disabilities.
Although government efforts to enforce laws and regulations to improve rights and benefits for persons with disabilities have gradually improved, they still were not effective. In 2012, the Supreme Court ordered the government to do more for persons with physical and mental disabilities, including providing a monthly stipend, building shelters, and appointing one social welfare worker in each district. During the year the government increased social security allowances for persons with disabilities to NRs 2,000 ($20) per month for those categorized as “profoundly” disabled, and NRs 600 ($6) for the “severely” disabled. The law states that other persons with disabilities would receive allowances based on the availability of funds and the degree of disability. Additionally, the government provided financial support to sign language interpreters in 20 districts to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing persons in obtaining government services. The government allocated NRs 107 million ($1.07 million) for persons with disabilities, including NRs 69 million ($690,000) for grants to disabled persons’ organizations in 15 districts. NGOs reported, however, that although the government attempted to implement the 2012 Supreme Court order by making budget allocations to empowerment and development programs, little progress had been made. In addition to reserving 5 percent of public positions for persons with disabilities and encouraging the private sector to adopt a similar reservation system, the government also provided income-generating training to persons with disabilities. Despite government efforts, persons with disabilities continued to face discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).
The Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare was responsible for the protection of persons with disabilities. Additionally, the Ministry of Education provided scholarships to help approximately 101,000 children with disabilities attend public or private schools at the primary and secondary levels. An estimated 60 percent of children with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual or mental, vision, or hearing disabilities, did not attend school. Compared with primary school attendance, relatively few children with disabilities attended higher levels of education, largely due to accessibility problems, school locations, and financial burdens on parents. Although incidents of abuse of children with disabilities reportedly occurred in schools, there were no reports of incidents filed in the courts or with the relevant agencies during the year.
The Ministry of Local Development allocated an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the budget of local development agencies for disability programs. Some NGOs working with persons with disabilities received funding from the government, but most persons with disabilities relied almost exclusively on family members for assistance.
There are no restrictions in law on the rights of persons with disabilities to vote and participate in civic affairs or to access the judicial system. According to the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, however, there were obstacles to exercising these rights, especially the lack of accessibility to public facilities. The government also reserved 5 percent of public positions for persons with disabilities.
Access to mental health services was available in larger cities, but the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare decreased its allocation for mental health organizations during the year from NRs 1.5 million to 1 million ($15,000 to $10,000).
The law provides that each community shall have the right “to preserve and promote its language, script, and culture” and to operate schools at the primary level in its native language. The government generally upheld these provisions. There are more than 125 caste and ethnic groups, some of which are considered indigenous nationalities, speaking more than 120 different languages.
Discrimination against lower castes and some ethnic groups, including in employment (see section 7.d.), was widespread and especially common in the Terai region and in rural areas.
Caste-based discrimination is illegal, and the government outlawed the public shunning of Dalits and made an effort to protect the rights of other disadvantaged castes. The constitution expands the prohibition of the practice of untouchability contained in the 2007 interim constitution to cover private spaces and stipulates special legal protections for Dalits in education, health care, and housing. It also established the National Dalit Commission as a constitutional body to strengthen protection and promote the rights of Dalits.
According to the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization, government progress in reducing discrimination remained limited in rural areas, and police were reluctant to investigate incidents of alleged discrimination, often preferring to mediate such cases. Media reported several incidents of Dalits living in areas affected by the 2015 earthquakes facing a disadvantage in receiving aid and reconstruction supplies compared with upper-caste communities nearby. NGOs stated that the practice was not widespread, however, and that local and international NGOs engaged in relief and reconstruction made efforts to ensure there was no caste discrimination in the distribution of aid or reconstruction materials.
Resistance to intercaste marriage sometimes resulted in ostracism or forced expulsion from the community, according to media reports and NGOs advocating for Dalit rights. Media reports also covered incidents in which Dalits were barred from entering temples and teashops and sharing water sources, and they occasionally suffered violence in such situations. NGOs said that the frequency of such incidents continued to decline slightly, possibly due to improved awareness of the antidiscrimination law, but such instances persisted. In one case of intercaste marriage, Ajit Mijar, a member of the Dalit community, married Kalpana Parjuli on July 9. On July 14, Mijar’s body was found hanged in Dhading district. Although the case was initially reported as a suicide, Mijar’s family suspected he had been killed deliberately and filed a case with the police. Dalit NGOs stated that the police were unresponsive and did not conduct a thorough investigation of the case. The NHRC, jointly with the National Dalit Commission and the Nepal Police, was monitoring the investigation.
In urban areas, particularly in the Kathmandu Valley, better education and higher levels of prosperity slowly reduced caste distinctions and increased opportunities for lower socioeconomic groups. Members of better-educated, urban-oriented castes continued to dominate politics and senior administrative and military ranks and control a disproportionate share of natural resources, and Dalits continued to report exclusion from local and national politics.
The government recognized 59 ethnic/caste groups as indigenous nationalities, comprising approximately 36 percent of the population. Although some communities were comparatively privileged, many faced unequal access to government resources and political institutions and linguistic, religious, and cultural discrimination. Some NGOs stated that indigenous people, whose settlements were disproportionately damaged by the 2015 earthquakes, were discriminated against in the quality and quantity of aid and reconstruction materials they received.
Conflicts between indigenous groups and government authorities over control of local resources and the distribution of benefits from development projects sometimes occurred. Some disputes arose over interpretation of the country’s obligations under International Labor Organization Convention 169, which indigenous groups maintained granted them exclusive rights over natural resources.
According to AF’s 2015 report on torture, a slightly higher rate of torture occurred among detainees identified as indigenous than among the overall population sampled. An Amnesty International report published in July accused police of subjecting members of the Tharu community in Kailali district to arbitrary arrests, torture, other ill-treatment, and coercion of some community members into signing forced confessions following the killings by protesters of eight security personnel and a child in Tikapur in August 2015.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
No laws criminalize same-sex sexual activity, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons actively advocated for their rights. The constitution contains provisions outlining protections for LGBTI persons, but LGBTI activists continued to press for further legislation to increase protections for gender and sexual minorities.
In 2007, the Supreme Court directed the government to enact laws to protect LGBTI persons’ fundamental rights, enable third-gender citizenship, and amend laws that were sexually discriminatory. Implementation of the 2007 decision was initially slow, but in 2013 the Home Ministry started issuing citizenship certificates with an “other” gender category for those applying for citizenship. In 2015 the Home Ministry started issuing passports with an “other” gender designation. The constitution enshrines the right of citizens to choose their gender identity on citizenship documents, according to human rights lawyers. The Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare increased its budget for LGBTI-focused programs from NRs 600,000 ($6,000) to NRs 1.5 million ($15,000) for awareness programs, income generation training, and other LGBTI community needs as determined by two major LGBTI advocacy NGOs, Blue Diamond Society (BDS) and Inclusive Forum Nepal. According to local LGBTI advocacy groups, the government did not provide equal opportunity to LGBTI persons in education, health care, or employment (see section 7.d.). Additionally, LGBTI advocacy groups stated that some LGBTI persons faced difficulties in registering for citizenship, particularly in rural areas.
According to local LGBTI rights NGOs, harassment and abuse of LGBTI persons by private citizens and government officials declined during the year, especially in urban areas, although incidents still occurred. Several NGOs praised the government, specifically the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, for taking greater initiative in organizing LGBTI-related trainings and sensitivity programs.
LGBTI rights groups reported that gender and sexual minorities faced harassment from police during the year. According to BDS, police continued to target transgender sex workers, subjecting them to as much as 25 days’ detention without charge under the Public Offense Act. Although the Nepal Police HRC did not document any allegations of harassment of LGBTI persons, the NGO Inclusive Forum Nepal reported that in February, two gay men were attacked in Makwanpur district. When they reported the incident to the police, the police refused to register the case and scolded the couple for inappropriate behavior. The HRC confirmed that some low-level harassment occurred because many citizens held negative views of LGBTI persons. The HRC added that the Nepal Police were not immune to such social prejudices. The HRC continued to conduct LGBTI rights training and worked with LGBTI NGOs to minimize and prevent harassment.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
There was no official discrimination against persons who provided HIV-prevention services or against high-risk groups that could spread HIV/AIDS.
Societal discrimination and stigma against persons with HIV decreased but remained common, according to NGOs. In the most recent Demographic and Health Survey for the country, 30.7 percent of women and 24.9 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards those with HIV.
According to NGOs, social acceptance of people with HIV increased, largely due to government-sponsored awareness programs for health-care workers and volunteers, media, police, teachers and students, local leaders, and community members.
Most health-care facilities that provided HIV-related services did so without significant stigma or discrimination, but there were reported incidents of hampered access for persons with HIV to education and health care, especially surgical and dental care, and treatment for pregnant women. The government approved a National HIV/AIDS Strategy that focuses on increasing medical services to HIV-infected persons and reducing social discrimination.
According to the National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, a national network, a women’s group forced an individual employed at the local health post in Kailali district to leave his job and the village when they discovered he was HIV-positive. The coordinated response by NGOs and district health officials, including training on reducing stigma and discrimination, ultimately led the community to welcome the individual back to the village and his position.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
During the widespread civil unrest, protests, and general strikes in the mid-western hills and Terai region from August 2015 to February 2016, there were reports of demonstrators attacking those who opposed ethnic Madhesi and Tharu political movements. Specifically, THRDA reported that on January 21, around 200 young people of hill origin traveled on buses to Morang district in the Terai and verbally and physically attacked local residents of Dainya Village Development Committee with rods, batons, and beer bottles. When thousands of local Madhesis chased the young people toward a group of police officers, the police took the young people away in a police van. The local residents accused the police of protecting the instigators of the violence, and torched two of the buses on which the hill-based youths had arrived. There were allegations that some of the violent “demonstrators” were criminals paid by persons with a political agenda.