The UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) examined Nepal on 20 July, and recommended the Government to take specific measures to increase the “very low” political representation of Dalit and indigenous women at national and local level.
It was the first time in six years that the Government of Nepal was reviewed by the CEDAW Committee. Since then, a lot of progress has happened with the peace process and the drafting of a new constitution. However, major challenges still exist before women’s rights are fully realised in Nepal, in particular for marginalised communities such as the Dalits.
A large number of civil society reports, submitted in advance of the 49th CEDAW session, highlighted the challenges faced by the women in Nepal. The Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO) had prepared a lobby brief in association with IDSN on the situation of Dalit women. FEDO also contributed to the comprehensive shadow report by the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD).
Multiple forms of discrimination
Dalit women in Nepal face multiple forms of discrimination and continue to endure discrimination in many areas including education, health, employment and access to economic resources. They are discriminated against not only by people of higher castes, but also within their own communities, where men are dominant.
In paragraph 40 of the Concluding Observations, the Committee urged the State party to “prioritize combating multiple forms of discrimination against women from various disadvantaged groups through the collection of data on the situation of these women, and the adoption of legal provisions and comprehensive programs, including public education and awareness raising campaigns involving the mass media as well as community and religious leaders, to combat multiple discriminations”.
The Committee also encouraged the Government of Nepal to adopt temporary special measures to accelerate the advancement of women facing multiple forms of discrimination, including in political representation, the administration and the judiciary, and access to health, education, employment, housing and land ownership (para 16).
Dalit women are generally underrepresented at the political and decision-making level of the state machinery. They are therefore demanding that there should be provisions for proportional opportunity for the Dalit women in the public sector, e.g. government services, employees’ administration as well as in the private sector in the new constitution.
In the Concluding Observations, the CEDAW Committee expressed deep concern about the “very low representation of women, in particular Dalit and indigenous women, in high-level decision-making positions, the public service, the judiciary and the diplomatic service, in the National Human Rights Commission and at the local level”. As a consequence, it urged the Government to increase a quota system for representation in the Constituent Assembly, and to establish concrete goals and timetables to accelerate the increase of women representation in elected and appointed bodies (para. 24).
Violence against women and trafficking
The Committee urged the Government of Nepal to give priority attention to combatting violence against women and girls and to adopt comprehensive measures to address such violence, including undertaking wider awareness-raising programs in Dalit communities, specifically targeting men and boys.
The Committee also expressed concern about trafficking of women and girls, and the persistence of sexual exploitation, in particular among the Dalit community.
The Committee asked the Government of Nepal to submit its sixth periodic report in 2015.