Legislation might be in place, but abuse and discrimination is a harsh reality that many Nepali’s suffer. Our project in Kathmandu supports and rehabilitates children that suffered from trafficking, but what is the government doing to stop these abuses from happening in the first place?
After signing the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in November 2006, the Nepali government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) ended their ten year conflict and a new provisional constitution was established.
The monarchy was dissolved and its property became nationalised, leaving Nepal as a Republic and national elections were held in the following year. Despite being an extremely poor nation, Nepali people could finally be hopeful about their country’s future.
Although the violence and political turmoil was over, six years on and the causes of the war have still yet to be resolved. Although political rights are now being a point of focus, action is slow and economic and social rights are still prevailing issues. According to the School Sector Reform Plan, devised by Nepal’s Ministry of Education in 2009, discrimination based on caste and ethnicity actively dominates communities, despite legislation making it illegal.
92 languages were recorded in Nepal by the National Census in 2001 and the country is inhabited by over 59 indingeous groups with various religions. The Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007) guarantees that every citizen has the right to free education up to the secondary level and delivered in their own mother tongue, but in reality many children do not feel that they can exercise this right because of the severe discrimination they face from teachers and other pupils.
The 2009 report states that “8% of the current school going aged population in primary (age 5-9) and about 25% in basic education (age 5-12) remain out of school”. It also indicates that children from certain social groups are more likely to drop out of school because of the discriminatory attitudes towards them. These attitudes still exist today.
Aside from social inequality, issues such as extreme poverty, abuse, child labour and trafficking of women and girls are also rife across Nepal. Tiny Hand International estimates that 10-15,000 girls are trafficked from Nepal to India and exploited in brothels every year.
Thankfully many women and children are rescued each year, but without support following their trauma they are extremely vulnerable to further abuse and exploitation. Through our project in Kathmandu, we support and rehabilitate the children rescued from these environments, while our partners support their mothers.
We also actively support and encourage the importance of education and children’s rights, but the Nepali government needs to make further changes to ensure that people such as women, children and particularly those deemed in the caste system as “untouchables” are not vulnerable to these abuses in the first place.
Some advances in Nepal’s legislation have expanded the rights of women, such as a Supreme Court ruling in 2006 that invalidated a law enabling men “to file for divorce if they were able to prove through a doctor their wives were unable to conceive for 10 years” (Source, BBC). But the lack of enforcement against discrimination, and the lack of encouragement for women and different castes to expand their employment prospects, leave thousands vulnerable and continually subject to abuse.
Further legislation will not immediately gain realistic equality for these people, but with further education, support and promotion of these ideas in communities, Nepal could make incredible leaps in its social development and break out of inequality that for far too long has remained its tradition.