BY ISHITA ROY
After fighting for more than 20 years. Nepal has finally decriminalized abortion. Earlier, women who opted for abortion were imprisoned. It is only until very recently, in July 2021 that Nepal has fully legalized abortion.
Everywhere in the world. Even in the US. Women and their rights on their own bodies are denied. And when it comes to countries of South Asia. The situation becomes more sinister.
“Women and girls were still being imprisoned if they took medical abortion tablets from a health service provider…”
-Sabin ShreshthaExecutive Director, Forum for Women, Law and Development Nepal (2002)
Evolution of Abortion Laws In Nepal
The focus is on the case studies of abortion and sexual and other reproductive rights and awareness of women in Nepal.
According to the Reforms Regarding in Laws Related to Abortion and Its Enforcement: Facts Revealed from the Review of Case Files nearly 13 women voluntarily wanted to end their pregnancies. This took place between 2011-2016. There were nearly 53 abortion cases filed in the High Court. However, these 13 women did not get the support they needed. Out of the 13, 5 women were convicted and 4 imprisoned.
With no awareness of how the law worked, their battle ended even before it began. None of these women understood that there are legal provisions for abortions especially based on medical grounds.
The question really is : Should women have to know these laws? Should these laws govern the reproductive parts of our bodies ?
Let’s find out :
In 2018, the Universal Periodic Report (UPR) at the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, recommended Nepal legalize abortion. It had recommended Nepal expand the grounds for abortion. For instance, rape, feal impairment, etc. should be made grounds to seek an abortion.
Reacting to the UPR recommendations, Nepal did pass the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act in 2018. However, the act failed to declare abortion fully legal.
In July 2020, the FLWD and Justice and Rights Institute, Nepal made a joint submission for UPR. They recommended Nepal implement laws for the protection of sexual and reproductive health and women. They also submitted a report as NGO(s) on the condition of women during the pandemic.
What Is UPR ?
This is a review meeting that is held before UN Human Rights Commission. The UN member states can ask questions or make recommendations. In the recent UPR cycle earlier this year. France recommended Nepal fully legalize abortions.
Nepal finally accepted the recommendation made by France on July 8, 2021. On July 26, the center met with parliamentary members and other legal committees to take necessary steps for its implementation.
“This is a key milestone in our efforts to decriminalize abortion and advance reproductive rights as human rights around the globe”
– Prabina Bajracharya
Center’s Capacity Building Manager for Asia
Nepal has finally decriminalized abortion. It further took steps for the protection of sexual and reproductive health and the rights of women and girls.
The Way Ahead
As much as this step deserves appreciation. It should also be alarming that it took them 20 years to finally take the required steps. Furthermore, Nepal is just one of the many countries that were able to break the societal shackles. While many women from South Asian countries still remain in dark.
For those like us, who have the privilege. We should use it. To give voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves.
Our uterus should be of no concern to the government or any laws. We understand that abortion can be misused. But do the risks outweigh the benefits? There are still hundreds of women who deserve to make this choice without having to report it like a common criminal.
There should be laws in place to deter the misuse of this right than to wholly deny this right. What is your stance in this regard, comment down below and let us know.
#MakeAChange by #RaisingYourVoice