Rape and Domestic Violence: In July parliament passed the new criminal code that will not come into effect until 2018. In the meantime the existing law requires prison sentences for rape that 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. Under the 2015 Act to Amend Some Nepal Acts to Maintain Gender Equality and End Gender-Based Violence, the sentence for marital rape is three to five years’ imprisonment and the statute of limitations for filing rape charges is 180 days.
For rape cases that were reported, police and the courts were responsive in most cases. Human rights activists outside of Kathmandu, however, expressed concern that police frequently refuse to register cases of gender-based violence (GBV), including occasionally rape cases. These groups report that police often prefer to use mediation rather than criminal investigation to resolve conflicts. 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.
Domestic violence against women and girls remained a serious problem. Violence against women and girls, including early and forced marriage, was believed to be one of the major factors responsible for women’s relative poor health, livelihood insecurity, and inadequate social mobilization. Additionally, 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 2009 Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act allows for settling complaints of domestic violence through mediation with an emphasis on reconciliation. Authorities usually pursued prosecution under the act only when mediation failed.
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 police. 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 guidance was difficult to implement outside of the women’s cells due to entrenched discriminatory attitudes.
The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers’ 2011 standard operating procedure for prevention of and response to 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.
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. The new criminal code makes the practice of paying dowries illegal and imposes penalties of up to NRs 30,000 ($300), prison sentences of up to three years, or both. The legislation also criminalizes violence committed against one’s spouse in connection to a dowry, imposing fines of up to NRs 50,000 ($500), prison sentences of up to five years, or both. 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.
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. In recent years those accused of witchcraft have faced various punishments, 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.
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. INSEC stated that authorities prosecuted no individuals under the act during the year.
Although acid attacks were not common, in May the Supreme Court ordered the government to amend the law to assure that victims of acid attacks and burning receive immediate compensation and critical care. Human rights NGOs stated they welcomed the decision but were still waiting for the government to implement the order.
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 new criminal code adopted in August formally criminalizes the practice by stipulating a punishment of up to three months’ imprisonment, a maximum fine of NRs 3,000 ($30), or both.
Sexual Harassment: The law 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.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/.
Discrimination: Although the law provides protection, 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–along with 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 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, lack of awareness of the law by applicants or government officials, or failure by some government officials to process such applications. For more information, see data.unicef.org.
Education: The constitution makes basic primary education free and compulsory nationwide. The 2016 Education Act divides the education system into Basic Education (Early Childhood Development and grades one to eight), which is free and compulsory, and Secondary Education (grades nine to 12), which is free but not compulsory. The government reported that during the 2015-16 school year 96.6 percent of school-age children attended primary schools with gender parity. A gender gap in secondary education, however, persisted, with two-thirds of adolescent girls in rural areas reportedly not attending school. The literacy rate for women was approximately 57 percent, compared to 75 percent for men, according to the 2011 census.
Government officials stated they continued to be concerned about the effect of the 2015 earthquakes on the education sector. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 34,500 classrooms in both public and private schools were destroyed or damaged beyond use. The earthquake interrupted the education of an estimated two million children and youth immediately following the disaster. According to the government’s Central Level Program Implementation Unit for education sector recovery, only approximately half of the 8,200 earthquake-affected schools have funded commitments for permanent reconstruction. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Education stated that the majority of children in earthquake-affected areas have been 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 such reports have increased in part due to increased awareness, but no reliable estimates of its incidence exist. 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.
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
Social, economic, and cultural values promoted the practice of early and forced marriages, which was 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 went unreported and law enforcement rarely enforced legislation to prevent it. A number of government child protection and welfare programs, such as scholarship programs targeting girls, attempted to encourage girls to stay in school. Despite the government’s announcement in 2016 of a new 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, NGOs stated child marriage rates had not significantly changed.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a serious problem, according to NGOs. There were reports of boys and girls living on the streets and working 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 under existing law 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. Additionally, 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 may also be tried under the new criminal code as “intent to rape,” for which the punishment is a fine of up to NRs 30,000 ($300), up to three years in prison, or both. If the pornographic materials are posted online or transferred by phone, violators may also be charged under the Electronic Transactions Act, which carries a punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment, a NRs 100,000 ($1,000) fine, 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 20 years in jail depending on the age of the victim.
Displaced Children: A large number of children remained displaced due to 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. In August parliament passed the Disability Rights Act, which provides that persons with disabilities have equal access to education, health, employment, public physical infrastructure, transportation, and information and communication services. The act also prohibits discrimination based on disability. Although government efforts to enforce laws and regulations to improve rights and benefits for persons with disabilities have gradually improved, they still are not fully effective. For example, books printed in Braille are not available for students at all grade levels, and free higher education is not uniformly available to all interested persons with disability.
The government provided monthly social security allowances for persons with disabilities of NRs 2,000 ($20) for those categorized as “profoundly” disabled, and NRs 600 ($6) for the “severely” disabled. The law states that other persons with disabilities should 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 persons with hearing disabilities in obtaining government services. The government allocated NRs 80 million ($800,000) from the national budget to fund programs for persons with disabilities, including grants to several disability-related organizations and a minimum budget to pay for community-based rehabilitation in all 75 districts. NGOs reported 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.
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. In recent years the Ministry of Education has established 380 classes at the primary school level and 34 special schools at the secondary level for children with special needs. An estimated 60 to 80 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 abuse of children with disabilities reportedly occurred in schools, no reports of such incidents were filed in the courts or with the relevant agencies during the year.
The Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development mandates that each district allocate 15 percent of its budget for minority and vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. Still, most persons with disabilities had to rely 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 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. More than 125 caste and ethnic groups, some of which are considered indigenous nationalities, speak 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 prohibits the practice of untouchability 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 protections for 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.
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 reconstruction materials they received. Other NGOs, however, stated that discriminatory practices were not widespread, and local and international NGOs engaged in reconstruction made efforts to prevent discrimination in the distribution of reconstruction materials.
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 Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare decreased its budget for LGBTI-focused programs from NRs 1.5 million ($15,000) to NRs 300,000 ($3,000), including awareness programs, training in income generation, and other LGBTI community needs. It also allocated NRs 100,000 ($1,000) for grants to NGOs serving the LGBTI community. The ministry attributed the decrease in funds allocated to LGBTI-focused spending to an inadequate budget and competing priorities. 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, advocacy groups stated that some LGBTI persons faced difficulties in registering for citizenship, particularly in rural areas.
Although several LGBTI candidates ran for office in local elections, LGBTI activists noted that election authorities prevented one person who self-identified as third gender from registering as a candidate for vice mayor because electoral quotas required the individual’s party to register a “female” candidate for the position. Separately, LGBTI activists stated that some transgender persons refrained from voting out of fear of harassment or social scorn because transgender persons were forced to stand in lines reflecting the gender on their citizenship documents, regardless of whether they had changed gender in practice.
According to LGBTI rights NGOs, harassment and abuse of LGBTI persons by private citizens and government officials declined during the year, especially in urban areas, although such incidents still occurred. Several NGOs praised the government, specifically the Ministry of Women, Children, and Social Welfare, for taking the 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 LGBTI advocacy group Blue Diamond Society, police continued to target transgender sex workers, subjecting them to up to 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 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.
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 remained common, according to NGOs. NGOs stated LGBTI persons, persons who injected drugs, and women from disadvantaged groups faced higher levels of discrimination. In the 2016 NDHS, 40 percent of women and 33 percent of men reported discriminatory attitudes towards persons with HIV.
In December 2016 the government approved a national HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan, which focuses on increasing medical services to HIV-infected persons and reducing social discrimination. It also calls for a review of current health-related laws and regulations to remove provisions that are discriminatory or harmful to the health of key populations affected by HIV/AIDS.