Nepal: Government Fails to Protect Women Human Rights Activists from Violent Attacks

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Nepal: Government Fails to Protect Women Human Rights Activists from Violent Attacks

LONDON - One year on from their election to power, the Maoist Government of
Nepal has failed to deliver on its promises to protect women, Amnesty
International said today.  Evidence of this failure can be found in the
treatment of women activists campaigning for human rights who are the
victims of beatings, sexual attacks and murder, with no significant
effort made to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"When the Maoist Government came to power it made commitments to
protect women's rights but these now seem like false promises," said
Madhu Malhotra, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.
"Now that they are in government, all the revolutionary rhetoric has
not resulted in real improvements in women's lives."

"Women activists play a crucial role in Nepal, where many women are
unaware of their rights and are afraid of confronting social and
government authority," said Madhu Malhotra. "Women activists are
singled out for violent attacks as it further promotes a culture of
silence and discourages women experiencing violence to speak out."

Amnesty International has found that, in spite of the election
promises made by the government, women human rights activists continue
to be at high risk of attack because they dare to challenge Nepal's
patriarchal divisions. Many have become social outcasts for raising the
issues of domestic and sexual violence and are targets of intimidation,
beatings and even death. The Nepalese police often refuse to file a
complaint or to fully investigate attacks and offer no protection.

Two women's rights activists in Nepal have been murdered since the
new government came to power, with no significant attempts made to
investigate or prosecute the crimes.  The most recent case was that of
Uma Singh, a journalist for Radio Today FM who was a member of the
Women's Human Rights Defender Network. She was attacked on 11 January
2009 by a group of men armed with sharp weapons. She was severely
mutilated and died on her way to hospital in Kathmandu.

In June 2008 Laxmi Bohara, from Kanchanpur, was severely beaten and
then reportedly murdered by her husband and mother-in-law who were not
happy with her working to defend human rights.

Amnesty International is calling on the Nepali Government to take urgent action to:

  • ensure the safety and protection of women human rights activists, particularly in rural areas
  • develop a national plan of action, including the establishment of
    safe shelters/homes and other facilities for women survivors of
    violence
  • take all possible measure to ensure justice, truth and reparations
    for crimes of violence against women committed during and after the
    conflict

Background
Following an extended protest by women human rights campaigners in
July, initiated after the alleged murder of a female activist and
subsequent failure of police to properly investigate the crime, the
government established a task force to make recommendations regarding
violence against women. The task force has yet to submit its report,
which was promised within two months.

In rural settings, women human rights activists often work in remote
locations with minimal communication facilities and support mechanisms.
These women challenge discriminatory cultural practices, such as early
child marriage and boxsi (witchcraft) but can face restrictions and
have been attacked by members of the community for their work, as has
been documented in Eastern Terai, southern Nepal.

The state's duty to protect women from violence is explicitly stated
in the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women,
which Nepal has ratified. States should pursue by "all appropriate
means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women"
(Article 4). Under international human rights law, the state has an
obligation not only to ensure that its agents and officials do not
commit violence against women, but also to protect women from violence
committed by private individuals and bodies including members of their
own families and communities.

An Amnesty International mission visited Nepal in November 2008 and
spoke to a wide range of women activists. Hindus, Muslims, Janajatis
and other marginalized groups as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender activists, all shared stories of the challenges they face.
A Dalit woman human rights activist for example, faces multiple abuses
as a result of caste based violence, in addition to gender and class
abuses.

Notes to editors

Amnesty International activists will be holding a demonstration to
highlight the plight of women human rights activists, in Narayanghat,
Nepal on 10 April.  

Rameshwar Nepal, Director of Amnesty International Nepal is
available for interview.

To request an interview please contact
Rameshwar on:
 
+977 9741 183941        +977 98 4121 2892

Alternatively contact Tom Mackey at Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 7793 902 348

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