Lobby brief on Dalit women in Nepal for the examination of Nepal at the 49th CEDAW session, New York, 20 July 2011.
Nepal info from IDSN:
The government appears to be striving to erode age-old practices of caste-based discrimination, and there is acceptance of the need for the introduction of reservations for the Dalit community in order to realize equality. Draft legislation vetted by a high-level panel and released in December 2010 contained provisions to guarantee equality and provide measures through which to realize language rights and proportional representation. In addition, there were two progressive judgments on these issues in January and March 2010 (handed down by the District Court in Baitadi in the west of the country), both of which upheld Dalit rights. The first sentenced a man to two years’ imprisonment for an attack on Dalits whom he believed were not following discriminatory temple rituals, while the second convicted a man for physical assault on the father of the groom at a Dalit wedding, where the perpetrator believed rituals practised were reserved for ‘high-caste communities’.
These decisions indicate some official appetite for combating caste-based discrimination, though inevitably tackling societal perceptions is a significant challenge. Indeed, discrimination on the basis of caste identity appears to continue to be widespread in Nepal, affecting the estimated 13–20 per cent of the population who are Dalit. For instance, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Dalits are often refused entry to tea shops, restaurants and hotels, and to Hindu temples, denying their right to practise their religion. Those who speak out against such discrimination face hostility. In October, the AHRC reported that a non-Dalit teacher who had spoken out against discriminatory practices against Dalit students at her school in Kailali District (including separate facilities for Dalit students and banning Dalit students from attending certain classes) remained suspended. In addition, she had been blocked by the local school board from applying for other teaching posts in the district.
In a similar vein, although the government declared 2010 to be the year to focus on gender based violence, ingrained attitudes have meant that women, especially from marginalized communities, continue to face violence, due to their lower status and financial dependence on their spouses. Women from marginalized communities such as Haliya, or bonded labourers in the mid- and far western regions of Nepal continue to face difficulties that are accentuated by poverty and the lack of employment opportunities, in accessing food, clothing, shelter, health care and education, despite the abolition of bonded labour nearly three years ago. For instance, the AHRC alleges that Dalit women and girls are at particular risk of sexual violence at the hands of higher-caste men, and that such cases are rarely brought to justice due to complicity between the police and the perpetrators. The year 2010 also saw the murder of two Dalit women and a girl in Bardiya National Park by army personnel. The soldiers involved alleged that they had killed the women and child – who were collecting firewood along with others from their village – instantly, and in self-defence. But other members of the party reportedly stated that they had been shot at while they were sleeping, and that the women and the girl were abducted, sexually assaulted, and later killed.