Dalit lives matter — but to who?

A screenshot of a clip from the Nepal Now podcast episode about Dalit rights in Nepal.

Anyone who lives in Nepal knows about caste and untouchability — the social rules that slot people into rigid groups from which they can rarely escape. At the bottom of the caste hierarchy are the Dalits, previously known as untouchables.

Anyone living in Nepal would also be aware of the deadly, violent crimes committed against Dalits, almost always with no legal consequences. But as you will hear in the introduction to this episode of Nepal Now, the incident reports from the Nepal Monitor provide a sense of the daily indignities and violence that Dalit people face in this country.

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Does Nepal deserve 2nd term at UN Human Rights Council?

A general view during the 23th Session of the Human Rights Council. 27 May 2013. Photo by Jean-Marc Ferré

Here’s a comprehensive article by Nepali Times. Nepal has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council since 2018 and is now running for a second term; the vote will likely take place at the General Assembly in October. However, many people in the human rights community argue that Nepal shouldn’t be re-elected because of its poor record, both in respecting human rights in Nepal itself and in its work as a council member. This is one issue to follow:

Nepal is running for re-election at the UN Human Rights Council, but has not done enough to protect rights

On 20 June 2019 Kumar Poudel was found dead, reportedly shot in the head, in Lalbandi-1, Chandranagar Forest in Sarlahi district, in what Nepal Police said was a shootout. He was in charge of the Netra Bikram Chand (‘Biplab’)-led Communist Party of Nepal in Sarlahi, and a probe by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) called it an extrajudicial killing, recommending criminal charges against three police officers.

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Top court rebuffs Nepal government. Will credible transitional justice follow?

Suman Adhikari poses with a photo of his father Muktinath,

Suman Adhikari poses with a photo of his father Muktinath, one of the 17,000 victims of Nepal’s conflict, 1996-2006. © Marty Logan

This week the Supreme Court of Nepal rejected the government’s attempt to strike down the court’s own 2015 decision directing the government to follow international standards in delivering transitional justice.

The big question now is: will the Government of Nepal finally live up to its many pledges to provide justice to survivors and families of victims of the conflict 14 years after the government-Maoist civil war ended?

In 2015 the Supreme Court directed the government to amend its Transitional Justice Act to meet global standards. Specifically, it was told to remove amnesty for those accused of the most serious crimes committed during the civil war, which killed roughly 17,000 Nepalis from 1996 to 2006. Those crimes include torture, rape and other sexual violence and ill-treatment and enforced disappearance.
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Nepal cannot legally block citizens’ return, experts say

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Nepalis wait after being blocked at the border in Darchula district, in the far west, on 31 March © Nepali Times

My latest article for Nepali Times, published today, 31 March, focused on the Government of Nepal’s policy of not letting citizens into the country since a lockdown began one week ago. Hundreds of people, most of them day labourers who were left without work after a similar lockdown in neighbouring India, are being blocked from entry at the India-Nepal border.

Nepal and India stop citizens from returning

Nepali workers in India headed home on foot and by bus only to find their own country was not allowing them in.

With thousands of Nepalis stuck on the Indian side of the border, legal and human rights experts say the government of Nepal cannot legally deny entry to its citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading

COVID-19: News, mainly from Nepal

Hello. There is so much information available on Covid-19 that I’m reluctant to add more, but a lot of it is good (or really bad) so I’m going to start sharing pieces that are already online. I’ll do this for a couple of days and if I see that people are interested I’ll continue.

Daily wage workers are more worried about starving to death than Covid-19

Most worker households are likely to have enough supplies and savings for a week but if the lockdown is to continue, they will need government’s help, activists say — Kathmandu Post

Protecting those who protect us from the epidemic

Hospital staff in Nepal at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 lack protective gear —Nepali Times

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Positive news on deadly form of menstrual banishment in Nepal

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A discussion with community health workers at Bayalpata Hospital about chhaupadi. ©Nyaya Health Nepal

Chhaupadi is the traditional practice in parts of rural western Nepal of segregating women and girls outdoors when they have their periods. In the past decade, more than a dozen women have been killed while staying in a chhau (shed), some from a snakebite, others after lighting a fire to say warm then suffocating in a windowless building. Women and girls in sheds are also at risk of sexual assault.

In recent years there has been increasing focus on chhaupadi, including various attempts to end it, such as demolishing sheds, criminalising the practice and threatening to withhold social security payments from anyone involved in the practice. I wrote the article below for Nepali Times after learning that one hospital in the region has had great success in getting its community nurses to discontinue chhaupadi.

Tipping point on menstrual banishment in Nepal

It is easy to be cynical about recent reports of actions taken to end chhaupadi, the traditional practice in parts of western Nepal of segregating menstruating women.

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UN rights experts critique Nepal again

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A tree blocks a road near Butwal, Nepal during the Maoist conflict in 2005. Photo: Marty Logan

United Nations experts have critiqued draft changes to the Nepal law on the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), says an editorial in this week’s Nepali Times.

In April, the experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, known as ‘special procedures’, took the Nepal Government to task for its slow, faulty progress in transitional justice. This time, their letter focuses on three proposals for the NHRC Act:

  1. Giving the attorney-general the power to approve the NHRC’s investigations
  2. Barring the institution from receiving any funding external to its government budget
  3. Preventing the NHRC from opening regional of sub-regional offices.

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Human rights committee directs Nepal government to take multiple actions over wartime rape

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Praying for Peace during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal (1996-2006)

Media reports focused on the need to revise rape laws to ensure access to justice but the government must also investigate the arrest, detention and rape by soldiers during the Maoist insurgency

On 21 May the UN Human Rights Committee published a decision about a Nepali woman who was abducted by Nepali soldiers during the Maoist insurgency (1996-2006), taken to army barracks, tortured, raped and forced to work for the soldiers. Then 14 years old, the girl was released six weeks later after her family intervened. Continue reading

Nepal: human rights champion or foe?

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Photo: Republic newspaper.

There’s an important editorial in this week’s edition of Nepali Times. It points out that while the Government of Nepal portrays itself as a human rights leader at the global level, at home it falls distressingly short of what’s required of a rights champion.

Not only have successive governments failed to implement a credible transitional justice process following the ceasefire between government and the Maoists in 2006, current leaders – including former Maoist fighters – are trying to curtail the powers of the National Human Rights Commission. The NHRC’s recommendations have been almost totally ignored by various governments since it started work in 2000.

Read on, from Nepali Times:

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Noncommunicable diseases in rural Nepal

Bayalpata_Hospital_screenshot_NCD_Alliance_videoFor a year now I’ve been working for the Noncommunicable Disease Alliance, known as NCD Alliance. One of the more creative things I’ve done in that time is produce a series of short videos on NCDs in rural Nepal, specifically in the district of Achham, in Nepal’s Far-West region.

NCDs refer to various non-contagious diseases, including cancers, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung diseases, as well as mental health issues. Not surprisingly when you look at that list, NCDs are responsible for more deaths each year than any other cause. Continue reading