What makes a human rights success story?

I set out to learn why the human rights scenario in Canada and Nepal seem so different. I was shocked to hear how Canada discriminated against Indigenous children.

In the latest episode of Strive podcast, by IPS News, I discuss a hugely important human rights case in Canada. My goal initially was not to describe all the details of the complaint, made in 2007 by two groups representing First Nations Children. (First Nations are one of three groups of Indigenous people in Canada).

“He said he could get another wife (instead) for 50,000 rupees”

Kathmandu-born epidemiologist Dr Lhamo Sherpa says that early in her career she began questioning the treatment of women in Nepal

Working at a community hospital in Bouddha, Kathmandu soon after graduating with a medical degree exposed Dr. Lhamo Sherpa to situations that made her reassess the lives being lived by women in Nepal. For example, “there was this childless couple who came for advice. After all the investigations, when I told him the price for in-vitro fertilization… the husband said that he could get another wife (instead) for 50,000 rupees.”

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Maternal health of Rohingya refugee women improving despite huge challenges

Maternal health in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh continues to make gains despite huge logistical, financial and cultural impediments

A mother and children in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. PHOTO: UNFPA

Twenty years ago I visited what were commonly called ‘Bhutanese refugee camps’ in southeastern Nepal. (In fact, they were camps of tens of thousands of Nepali-origin people living in Bhutan who had been brutally evicted from that country, with the tacit assent of regional superpower India. But that’s another story.) The tiny bamboo huts where people had to make their new lives were laid out in regular grids on the beaten earth of Nepal’s Tarai or plains region.

So when I imagined the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, that image of rows upon rows of tidy, tiny, bamboo buildings came to mind. It couldn’t be further from the truth. The massive Rohingya camps (housing close to 900,000 people) are located on hilly terrain. Because the Bangladesh Government refuses to recognize the Rohingya — who fled similar ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Myanmar — as official refugees, their ‘homes’ are not uniform buildings but a collection of irregular huts covering the hills.

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Updates to Nepal’s rape law erased

Revising Nepal’s rape law is a priority but reducing cases of this violent act requires a societal shift

Activists in Kathmandu protest rising numbers of rape and sexual assault cases, October 2020. PHOTO: Courtesy of Ajhai kati sahane?

Almost one year ago, in January 2021, the Government of Nepal updated the country’s rape law. The changes were incomplete, partly because agreed revisions like widening the definition to include men and boys as victims were deleted at the last minute, but it was an improvement.

Changes that were agreed included increasing jail time for those found guilty and criminalizing any attempts to ‘settle’ a rape case outside of the courts, which is a regular occurrence.

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Right to health still largely ignored in Nepal

“The health system remains unprepared and unlawfully in defiance of a range of orders of the Supreme Court”

A health camp in rural Nepal. PHOTO: Marty Logan

The right to health in Nepal during Covid-19 remains largely a paper promise. In June I wrote about how the government had largely ignored orders from the Supreme Court to act immediately to meet its health commitments in both international and domestic law.

Today the International Commission of Jurists, whose 2020 briefing paper was the centre point of my article, released an updated version—it is equally depressing.

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Right this wrong done to women

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

A community health unit and a birthing centre were established in Dhiri four months ago but the number of service seekers is minimal. Prakash Baral/TKP

I really appreciated this editorial in The Kathmandu Post on Wednesday, 21 July. It linked two things I care about—human rights and maternal health.

It noted that the United Nations Human Rights Council has just released a statement calling on governments worldwide to ensure that women’s right to sexual and reproductive health is ensured, among other things. The paper linked that with its recent reporting about women in remote areas of Nepal giving birth at home and even in sheds!

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Activists pursue the right to health in Nepal during Covid-19

As a new surge in cases overwhelms the South Asian country, people are forced to rely on a frail healthcare system and a government remiss in its duties to uphold their right to health

Getting oxygen treatment for Covid-19 in Nepal, May 2021. © Amit Machamasi/Nepali Times

On 3 May, Lok Bahadur Pariyar, 45, arrived at his local pharmacy in southern Nepal complaining of breathing difficulties. He told the pharmacist that he had been suffering from fever, severe body aches, and cold symptoms in recent days.

Suspecting COVID-19, the pharmacist called an ambulance to take Pariyar to the hospital. The next day, when the pharmacist opened his shop, he was surprised to see the man standing outside. He told him he had visited three hospitals the day before and all had turned him away.

Pariyar sat down to catch his breath, and died soon after.

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Government says warning shots killed two in Nepal cases probed by UN

Excerpt from a summary of the communication from the UN special rapporteurs, dated 18 November 2020

Warning shots fired into the air by police to control mobs were responsible for two deaths being probed by United Nations human rights experts, according to the Government of Nepal. 

Both Rafikul Alam of Jhapa and Suraj Kumar Pandey of Kapilvastu were “unfortunate” victims of police attempts to control mobs, wrote the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the UN in Geneva in a response to the experts, also known as special rapporteurs, on 10 February.

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Truth and reparations are also justice for victims of Nepal’s conflict

It brings the urgency to seek justice even closer when family members are reminded of that small detail that they had forgotten over the years.”

— Pooja pant, memory, truth and justice project

To its credit, the Nepali media has written regularly about successive governments’ lack of action on transitional justice since the Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed in 2006. Reporting has focused on the legal framework, which in 2015 Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled must be revised because it granted amnesty for the most serious crimes of the conflict.

In the civil war, from 1996 to 2006, the state and Maoists combined to kill 17,000 Nepalis, torturing and disappearing thousands more.

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Government denies team destroyed Chepang houses in Chitwan National Park

The Nepal Government has denied that a joint team from the Nepal Army and Chitwan National Park destroyed homes belonging to landless Chepang people on 18 July 2020. 

The operation “removed 8 Katha of maize crop, 9 wooden towers and 2 sheds from the area (but) the operation team has not destroyed any of those 8 HHs [households] Iiving there and any of their property,” says a letter to United Nations (UN) human rights experts dated 21 December.

Razing of the houses was condemned by organizations led by Amnesty International Nepal, which called it an “act of cruelty” and a human rights violation.

Continue reading “Government denies team destroyed Chepang houses in Chitwan National Park”
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