JOINT COMMITTEE PRINT
COUNraV REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
PRACnCES FOR 1992
SUBMITTED TO THE
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTIONS 116(d) AND 502B(b) OF THE
FOREIGN ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1961, AS AMENDED
Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic, parliamentary form of gov-
ernment. Nepal was formerly an absolute monarchy, but the King in 1990 legalized
political parties and invited formation of an interim government that promulgated
a new Constitution. Under that Constitution the King retains important residual
Powers, but he has effectively disassociated himself from the exercise of power. The
arliament consists of the House of Representatives (lower house) and the National
Council (upper house). In multiparty elections held in May 1991, the Nepali Con-
gress Party won a majority in the House of Representatives, which chose G.P.
Koirala as Prime Minister.
Internal security is maintained by the Nepal police, under the Home Minister,
and, as necessary, by the Royal Nepalese Army, of which the King is Commander-
in-Chief. Because communication links in Nepal are limited, local officials have a
great deal of autonomy and exercise wide discretion in enforcing law and order. In
1992, as in previous years, the police on several occasions used excessive lethal
force, and police mistreatment of criminal suspects continued. According to the U.S.
Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, total military expenditures for 1989 were
$33 million. 'There is no indication tnat efforts will be made to reduce these expendi-
tures in absolute terms in the near future. However, the portion allocated to defense
in the 1992-1993 budget fell slightly compared to the previous year.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita gross domes-
tic product estimated at around $170. Over 80 percent of its 19 million people are
engaged in subsistence agriculture. Carpet and ready-made garment sales and tour-
ism revenues are the major sources of foreign exchange, and foreign aid covers 69
per cent of Nepal's development budget. Under the new Government, efforts are
under way to provide a greater role for the private sector.
The 1990 Constitution guarantees a broad range of fundamental human rights,
and the Parliament has passed most of the legislation necessary to bring the law
into conformity with the Constitution. The human rights situation has improved
considerably smce 1990, and much progress has been achieved in the transition to
a more open society. Substantial human rights problems remain, however. The prin-
cipal problems concern the abuse of police powers, including arbitrary detention and
beatings (which, in at least one instance, included torture) by a police force that is
poorly trained, and the Government's unwillingness to investigate or enforce ac-
countability for recent and past abuses. Police fired into crowds on several occasions,
most notably during demonstrations against the (Jovemment on April 6 that re-
sulted in the deaths of seven persons. &me restrictions continue on freedom of ex-
ftression. Trafficking in women and child labor remained serious problems. A new
aw granting freedom of religion was passed; however, proselytizing remains prohib-
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing. — ^There were a number of incidents
involving political violence and killing orior to the February parliamentary by-
electionsand, on a wider scale, before the May local elections. All of the major politi-
cal parties traded charges of killings, but the majority of allegations were believed
to have been distortions made for political advantage.
On April 6, at least 7 people were killed, almost 100 injured, and over 500 ar-
rested in Kathmandu and its suburb of Patau after police fired on protesters dem-
onstrating against the Government's economic policies. The demonstration was orga-
nized by a coalition of parties, led by the Communist Party of NepalAJnity Centre,
and called for a general strike to protest recent price increases by the Government,
This demonstration became violent in several places with incidents of arson and at-
tacks on public and private property. The Government claimed that force was nec-
essary to prevent further damage to public property. However, well-documented re-
ports by human rights groups and eyewitness accounts indicate that the police were
ill-trained in crowd control and overreacted. Most of the victims were innocent by-
standers and, in one flagrant case, a woman who was a considerable distance away
from the rioting was shot in the leg at point-blank range without provocation.
Human rights organizations also condemned the use of bullets during the dem-^-
The Government failed to conduct an investigation of the incident or take discipli-
nary action against the police for using excessive force. It acknowledged that the
police are inadequately equipped and trained to cope with civil disturbances, but
claimed that the level of force was justified in response to deliberate provocation.
The families of the seven deceased were compensated approximately $500 each.
In two incidents, on January 3 in Solukhumbu District and on August 28 in
Okhaldhunga District, Nepalese police shot and killed Tibetan refugees who were
members of groups transiting Nepal en route to India. The Government has not in-
vestigated either incident or taken disciplinary action against the officers involved.
The Government also did not publish the results of the Home Ministry's inquiry into
incidents in 1991 at Argakhanchi and Khotang — in which police fired on crowds,
killing two persons and wounding several others — or take disciplinary action against
the police involved in those incidents.
b. Disappearance. — ^There were no reports of permanent disappearances. In May
there were several cases in which rival political factions claimed their opponents
had abducted and held prospective candidates briefly to prevent their registration
in local elections. The report of the five-person commission to investigate the where-
abouts of those missing or dead since December 1960, presented to the Parliament
in 1991, still has not oeen published, nor has the Government made any public
statements regarding its contents, despite pressure from human rights groups to act
on its findings.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. —
There was one particularly significant incident of torture in 1992. Following the
January 15 murder of a policeman in Baglung District, over 500 people were de-
tained for investigation. Most were released within 2 days; however, 10 persons
were held for a period of nearly 2 months without being brought to court. According
to a reliable team of investigators, all were tortured, including beatings on the soles
of their feet, and at least three of the detainees received bums on their feet as well.
AU 10 denied any involvement with the murder and allege that they were arrested
for political reasons. Local authorities did not deny the use of torture, and the local
investigator commented that torture was necessary as a means to ejctract informa-
tion. No disciplinary action was taken against these local authorities, although the
Home Minister reported that he had instructed the police to stop such practices.
Beating is stiU reported to be a routine means for police to extract confessions
from common criminals. The Government has rarely conducted investigations into
allegations of police brutality or acknowledged public concern about its prevalence.
Nepal's Constitution now provides for compensation to those subjected to physical
or mental torture, but the Supreme Court has ruled that legislation must be passed
to determine levels of compensation before the courts can make awards.
Three classes of prison facilities exist in Nepal. Class "C cells — which generally
hold common criminals — are the worst. They often have dirt floors, sparse or no fur-
nishings, and poorer food than class "A" and "B" cells. Overcrowding is common, and
the use of handcufi"s and fetters is sometimes reported. Conditions in "A" and "B"
cells are markedly better, with the former reserved for "prominent" persons. Women
are incarcerated separately from men in equally poor conditions. Children are incar-
cerated together with adults, either because uiey have committed crimes or their
parents have done so and the children have nowhere else to live. There has been
Sonne slow improvement in prison conditions; sick prisoners are now more likely to
be referred to nospitals for treatment.
Reflecting the low level of general medical facilities in the country, facilities for
care and treatment of the mentally ill are inadequate. Such persons are often placed
in jails under conditions that are degrading and sometimes inhuman by inter-
The Mallik Commission's report on its investigation of the loss of life and property
during the Movement to Restore Democnu^s OnlRD) agitation in 1990, in which it
looked into chai^rcs of torture and other mistreatment, was submitted to the Attor-
ney General on December 31, 1990. However, the report remains unpublished, al-
thouc^ it may be read in the parliamentary library. The report's principal author
disputed the Attorney General's 1991 finding that the report supplies neither firm
evidence nor a legal basis for prosecution. Human rights monitors urged the Gov-
ernment to publish the report and take appropriate action based on its contents.
d. Arbitrcay Arrest, Detention, or Exile. — ^Accordin^ to the Constitution, a suspect
must be brou^t before a court within 24 hours and informed of the general grounds
for his arrest or be released. If the court upholds the detention, the police are au-
thorized up to 25 days, with a possible 7-day extension, to complete their investiga-
tion. Alihou^ the ^preme Court ordered the release of a detainee on at least one
occasion on the grounds that he had been held for over 24 hours before being pre-
sented to a court, tJie police reportedly often violate this provision of the law in prac-
tice. Under current law, persons are permitted access to a lawyer onlv after they
are no longer in police custody. There is a functioning system of bail, but it is too
esnpensiveror most Nepalese.
The law most often used to detain and arrest persons arbitrarily during the MRD
agitation was the Public Security Act. The Act was amended, but not repealed, by
the new Government in 1991. It permits the Home Ministry to detain an individual
for up to 6 months upon presentation of written notice that includes "grounds and
reason." Hie district court must be notified of the detention within 24 hours. It may
extend the period of detention once, for an additional 6 months, before charges must
be filed. The grounds for detention under the Act are open to broad interpretation:
to ensure the security of Nepal; order and tranquility inside Nepal; amicable rela-
tions between Nepal and other friendly states; or amicable relations among people
of difierent classes or religions within Nepal. Persons detained under this Act are
considered to be held in preventive detention and are not brought to trial.
There are oUier laws that allow for arbitrary detention, including the revised Pub-
lic Offenses Act. It was under this Act that hundreds of civil servants were detained
in 1991 during a 55-day protest strike against the Government. Despite the Act's
revision in 1992, human rights monitors nave expressed concern that it continues
to vest too much power in uie Chief District Officer, the highest ranking civil serv-
ant in Nepal's 75 districts, and could give rise to abuses in the future.
The 10 persons arrested in Baglung District following the murder of a policeman
on January 15 were held for 30 to 55 days on chai-ges of conspiracy and murder
before being brought to court, a violation of the law. The detainees were also pre-
vented from seeing any visitors or lawyers, also a procedural violation.
Exile is prohibited by the Constitution and is not practiced.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial. — ^Nepal's judicial system consists of three layers:
The district courts, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The judges of all three
layers are appointed oy the King upon the recommendation of the Judicial Council,
a constitutional body chaired by the Chief Justice, which makes recommendations
and gives advice on matters of appointment, transfer, disciplinary action against
judges, and other matters relating to judicial administration.
AuUtaiy and civilian courts are separate. Military courts generally deal only with
mihtary personnel who are immune from prosecution in civilian courts. In 1992 the
Supreme Court ruled that civilians may no longer be tried in military courts for
crimes involving the military. In the past, cases of terrorism or treason were often
dealt with under the Treason Act in closed trials held before specially constituted
tribunals. No such cases were tried in 1992, but the Treason Act remains in effect.
Nepalese law provides for the ri^t to a public trial except in some security and
customs cases, llie Constitution provides for protection from double jeopardy, pro-
tection fiT>m retroactive application of the law, and the right to counsel; the Gfovem-
ment provides free counsel to indigents. There were no reported instances of abuse
in this area in 1992. The judiciary is legally independent and has the right of judi-
cial review under the Constitution. Uncfer the previous Panchayat system, the judi-
ciary often collaborated with the police in upholding politically-motivated detentions;
in 1992 the process of judicial strengthening continued, and the courts confronted
the police in several cases of illegal detention.
The Constitution also allows the Supreme Court to initiate contempt proceedings
and to impose punishment for contempt of the Supreme Court or subordinate courts.
All lower court decisions, including acquittals, are subject to appeal. The Supreme
Court is the court of last appeal, but the King may grant pardons and may suspend,
commute, or remit any sentence by any court.
The Government has declared that it holds no political prisoners. There is no
credible evidence that any political prisoners (as denned for the purpose of this re-
port — see Appendix A) are oein^ held in Nepal's iails, althou^ some political par-
ties occasion^ly claim that political prisoners are oeing held.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence. — ^The
new Government generally respects the privacy of the home and family, principles
bolstered by Neptxiese law and tradition. Search warrants are required before search
and seizure, except in cases involving suspected security and narcotics violations.
The Police Act of 1955 as amended empowers the police to issue warrants for search
and seizure in criminal cases upon receipt of information about criminal activities.
The Chief District Officer in misdemeanor cases and court judges in felony cases
must approve warrants within 24 hours after issuance.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including
a. Freedom of Speech and Press. — ^The Constitution specifies that all citizens shall
have freedom of tnought and expression; it also provides that no news item, article,
or any other reac^ng material shall be censored. These rights are circumscribed,
however, as the Constitution permits restriction of speech or press if the action
would: threaten the sovereignty and integrity of the Kingdoin; disturb the harmo-
nious relations among peopte of different castes or communities; promote sedition,
defamation, contempt of court, or instigation to commit crime; or contradict decent
public behavior or morality. These restrictions were invoked in Novenaber when an
editor served a 1-week jau sentence for contempt of court after printing a cartoon
satirizing the Chief Justice.
The I^ss and Publications Act provides for the licensing of publications and the
granting of credentials to journalists. It includes penalties for violating these re-
of materials that, inter alia, foment disrespect toward the King or royal family; un-
dermine the integrity and sovereignty of the Kingdom; undermine the security,
peace, and order of the Kingdom; create animosity among people of diflerent castes,
religions, etc.; or adversely affect the good conduct or morality of the public. A simi-
lar list establi^es the basis for banning the importation of foreign publications.
Notwithstanding the law, a large number of Nepal's more than 400 publications
(some political party organs, some independent papers, and many small papers with
circulation limited to a few hundred copies) remained vigorous in their criticism of
the Government. A few published attacks on the monarchy without being prosecuted
or closed down.
The two Nepalese dailies with the largest circulation are government organs.
While their editors may publish critical views and alternate policies, editorial views
in these dailies still tend to reflect government policy. The Ministry of Communica-
tion has also provided occasional guidance to the editors. While the CJovemment can
exert pressure on the independent print media through its control of the price of
newsprint and throu^ the high proportion of advertising it purchases, there was
no evidence that such pressure was applied in 1992.
TTie sole radio and television stations in Nepal are government owned and con-
trolled. While programming continued to reflect a broader range of interests and po-
litical viewpoints than it did before the political transformation was begun in 1990,
it stiU followed closely the views of the (jovemment.
There were no reported restrictions on academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association. — ^Under the Constitution, free-
dom of assembly is gueu-anteed. However, a caveat allows restrictions on such vague
grounds as undermining the "sovereignty and integrity" of Nepal or disturbing "law
and order." There were no reports of arrest or detention for exercising the freedoms
of peaceable assembly or association.
c. Freedom of Religion. — ^The majority of Nepalese are Hindus, and Nepal is de-
scribed in its (Constitution as a Hindu Kingdom. There is a large minority of Bud-
dhists, a smaller number of Muslims, and a small but growing number of Chris-
tians. Non-Hindus are allowed to practice their religion and maintain places of wor-
ship. A number of foreign (Christian clergymen reside and work in Nepal in various
flelds. Religious education is offered by non-Hindus, including Muslims and Chris-
tians. Religious publications are imported mainly from India and widely circulated.
The Constitution and a law passed in 1992 allow self-conversion but outlaw pros-
elytizing. The law provides a maximum penalty of 6 years for converting a person
to another religion and a maximum sentence of 3 years for attempting to convert
someone. No arrests were made under this provision in 1992. The law also protects
the functioning of all religions but prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste;
however, such discrimination is pernutted at temples.
In the past, Nepalese authorities, particularly in conservative rural areas, took
the prohibition on conversion very seriously. The current Glovemment's more toler-
ant policies have allowed Christians and other non-Hindu groups to engage freely
in a wide variety of religious eictivities which have, however, yet to inclu(te attempt^
at conversion. Keligious groups may establish their own organizations and acauire
their own places of worship, suthough the Government has been slow in establisning
procedures for registering religious organizations.
There is continuing concern that the prohibition against religious conversion in
the new Constitution raises the possibility that it may be used against people solely
for the expression of their rehgious beliefs. For this reason various non-Hindu
groups occasionally propose amending this provision of the Constitution.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Re-
patriation. — Citizens of Nepal may move freely and reside where they wish, a right
provided for in the Constitution. Foreigners (including Tibetans resident in Nepal)
and journalists are restricted from traveling to some areas on the Chinese border
unless they are part of a licensed trekking group escorted by a police liaison officer.
Travel outside of Nepal is not restricted for Nepalese citizens. Tibetans resident in
Nepal ma^ travel freely only to India, although permission is routinely granted for
their business travel to other countries. All Nepalese abroad are free to return
home. Although it is not explicitly prohibited by the Constitution, there are no
known cases of revocation of citizenship for political reasons.
Nepal has no official refugee policy and is not party to the 1967 Protocol Relating
to the Status of Refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) has maintained an office in Kathmandu since 1989. The current Govern-
ment is aiding the UNHCR's efforts by facilitating access to refugees from both
China and Bhutan. In the past, Nepal accepted and assimilated approximately
14,000 Tibetan refugees. Border restrictions, tightened in 1986 by a joint Nepalese/
Chinese agreement, are observed haphazardly on the Nepalese side of the Border.
Tibetan refugees transiting through Nepal to India are usually permitted passage,
although there are reports of police demanding payment from, and occasionally ad-
ministering beatings to, these refugees. In January and again in August, Nepalese
police shot and killed Tibetans who had entered Nepal illegally. Government claims
that the victims had attacked the police were not borne out by UNHCR interviews
of the surviving group members. Cfredible reports continue to be heard of some Ti-
betan refugees being turned back by Nepalese authorities near the Nepal-China bor-
der; however, the incidence of this practice declined as the UNHCR established
more regular procedures with the Government for handling undocumented Tibetan
There was another sharp increase in the number of ethnic-Nepalese Bhutanese
fleeing into Nepal after reportedly suffering abuses or being expelled from Bhutan.
At the end of 1991, the camps in southeastern Nepal housed 10,000 of these refu-
gees, and at least 65,000 more arrived in 1992. They arrive to face unhealthful con-
ditions, including overcrowding, shortages of clean water, poor sanitation and nutri-
tion, and risk of epidemic disease. The UNHCR monitors these refugees' condition
and provides assistance for their basic needs. The Government tolerates the refu-
gees' presence on a humanitarian basis, although it can offer them little except a
place to stay. The Government raised the issue of the refugees with the Government
of Bhutan in 1992, but the flow of new arrivals continued unchecked, and there was
no agreement on refugee screening and repatriation.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Govern-
Under the Constitution promulgated in 1990, Nepal is a constitutional monarchy
with sovereignty vested in the people. The people, through their elected representa-
tives, have the ri^t to amend the Constitution to change all but the most basic as-
pects of the body politic — sovereignty vested in the people, the multiparty system,
fundamental rights, and the constitutional monarchy.
Parliamentary elections, based on universal suffrage for citizens over the age of
18, are to be held every 5 years by secret ballot. On May 12, 1991, the people exer-
cised their franchise for the first time in 32 years in a general election that Nepa-
lese and more than 60 international observers described as basically free and fair.
The Nepali Congress Party won 110 out of 205 seats in the House of Representa-
tives and was able to form the Government without need of a coalition. The King
appointed G.P. Koirala, leader of the Nepali Congress Party in the Parliament, as
Prime Minister. The next parliamentaiy elections are scheduled to be held in 1996.
Local elections were held on May 28 and 31, 1992, for municipal and village devel-
opment councils, and the winners of these offices, some 46,000 in all, voted for dis-
trict development conmiittees in July. These elections were also generally free and
fair, althoudi scattered acts of violence and polling irregularities were reported. The
governing Nepali Congress Party won over 50 percent of the offices contested. The
main opposition party, the Nepal Conmiunist Party/United Marxist and Leninist,
won approximately 26 percent of the offices, and the conservative National Demo-
cratic Party, led by former leaders of the Panchayat government, won 10 percent.
The King continues to exercise certain powers "with the advice and consent of the
Council of Ministers," These powers include exclusive power in enacting, amending,
and repealing laws relating to succession to the throne. The King's income and prop-
erty are tax exempt and inviolable. No question may be raised in any court about
any act performed by the King.
The new Constitution also permits the King to exercise emergency powers in the
event of war, external aggression, armed revolt, or extreme economic depression.
The emergency powers allow him to suspend the freedoms of expression and assem-
bly, freedoms from censorship and preventive detention, and other basic freedoms
without judicial review. The rights to form associations and of habeas corpus may
not be suspended. The lower, but not the upper, house of Parliament may be dis-
solved. A state of emergency may be maintained for up to 3 months without legisla-
tive approval and up to 6 months, renewable only once for an additional 6 months,
if legislative approval is granted.
The new Constitution bars the registration and participation in elections of any
political party that is based on caste or community or that does not operate openly
There are no specific laws that restrict women or minorities fivm participating in
the government or political parties, but lingering conservative social traditions limit
the influence of both women and some castes and tribes in the poUtical process. The
Constitution requires that at least 5 percent of the candidates tor the House of Rep-
resentatives from each registered political party be women.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental In-
vestigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Nepal has over a dozen nongovernmental human ri^ts organizations. The major
organizations are the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON) and tiie
Forum for the Protection of Human Rights (FOPHUR), although their activities
have dropped off somewhat following the advent of democraty. The Nepal Law Soci-
ety also monitors human rights issues, and a number of nongovernmental organiza-
tions focus on single issues such as child labor or women's ri^ts. Both government-
appointed commissions and nongovernmental human right groups continue to report
that police authorities are do not cooperate with their efforts to gather information.
In June Amnesty International (AI) published a report criticizing the Govern-
ment's inaction in addressing past human rights violations and its poor handling
of the April 6 demonstrations. The Government stated that the report is politically
biased and exaggerates the Government's human rights violations, and it has indi-
cated a willingness for AI to send a team to assess the situation in Nepal. An inde-
gendent Nepalese commission, named the Tuladhar Commission after the jurist who
eaded it, published a separate report on the April 6 incidents that criticized the
Government's handling of the riots but also ascribed some blame to the leftist lead-
ers of the general strike. The Tuladhar Conmussion complained that the Govern-
ment and the official media obstructed its efforts to investigate the facts.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Lcmguage, or Social Status
The Constitution specifies the right to equality, whereby the State shall not dis-
criminate against citizens on grounds of religion, race, sex, caste, or ideology. How-
ever, Nepal is still largely a traditional society wedded to the caste system, and
caste discrimination is conmion, especially in the rural areas of western Nepal. Al-
though the public shunning of Sintouchables" has been outlawed, an exception was
retained for traditional practices at religious sites. Economic, social, and educational
differentiation tend to be a function of historical patterns, geographical location, and
caste. The spread of education and higher levels of prosperity, especially in the
Kathmandu valley, are slowly reducing caste distinctions and increasing opportuni-
ties for lower socioeconomic groups. Although politics and senior jobs in the govern-
ment administration and anny in Nepal continue to be dominated by higher and
better educated urban-oriented castes (Brahmin, Chhetri, and certfdn elements of
the Newar community), the representation of other castes is increasing slowlv.
Women in Nepal face gender discrimination, particularly in rural areas, where the
wei^t of tradition, lack of education, and ignorance of the law remain severe im-
pediments to the exercise of basic rights, such as the ri^^t to vote or to hold prop-
erty in their own names. According to preliminary figures from the 1991 census, the
female literacy rate is 26 percent, compared to a male literacy rate of 57 percent.
Over the years, women have benefited from various changes in marriage and in-
heritance laws. However, these laws continue to remain discriminatory, (fespite the
constitutional prohibition against discrimination based on sex. The divorce law
grants Nepalese women the right to divorce but on narrower grounds than those
available to men. Likewise, the law governing property rights favors men in a num-
ber of ways, including division of family property, the disposition of property, inher-
itance, and land tenancy. The new Constitution strengthened some provisions re-
garding women, including equal pay for equal work.
Wife beating is common, though its extent is difficult to measure owing to the
value attached to family privacy in Nepal's traditional society. Several unconfirmed
cases of dowry deaths were also reported over the year. In general, there is little
public attention given to violence against women in the home.
Trafficking in women is a deeply ingrained social problem in several of Nepal's
poorest areas. Estimates of the total number of Nepalese girls and women working
as prostitutes in the red-light districts of India's major cities vary widely but aver-
age around 100,000. Coercion is often involved, although it is impossible to gauge
its extent. Newspapers occasionally report the arrest oT men attempting to abduct
young women or trick them into going to India. Economic incentives also entice
many other women. In certain parts of Nepal, families raise their daughters with
the expectation that they will spend several years in the brothels of India and then
return with their earnings and settle in their native villages. In addition, the tradi-
tion of religious prostitution among the Badini and Dev^i of western Nepal is an
ongoing concern of the Government. The Government prosecutes instances of coer-
cive trafficking brou^t to its attention but takes few active measures to stop it. The
spread of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in India's red-light dis-
tricts has discouraged the Government from aggressively promoting the return and
rehabilitation of Nepalese prostitutes.
Government efforts thus far focus more on preventing voluntary prostitution than
on rehabilitation. The Women's Development Division of the Ministry of Labor and
Social Welfare sponsors income-generating skill training programs in several dis-
tricts known for producing prostitutes to be sent to India, and several nongovern-
mental organizations have similar programs.
In Nepal's more open political atmosphere, a growing number of women's advo-
cacy groups are taking up women's issues. Nearly all political parties have their
own women's groups to press for women's causes.
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association. — ^Article 12 of the Constitution provides for the free-
dom to form and to join unions and associations. The Constitution permits restric-
tion of unions only through legal measures in cases of subversion, sedition, or simi-
lar conditions. Since the political transformation begun in 1990, there has been an
increase in trade union activity in every sector, with virtually all the unions closely
linked to one or another of the political parties. Union participation in the formal
sector is significant, but the formal sector comprises only a small portion of Nepal's
overall labor maricet. Due to their recent formation and Nepal's lack of experience
with trade unionism, the unions are still developing effective structures for oi^aniz-
ing, collective bargaining, and education. Moreover, while the Parliament passed
new labor and trade union acts in 1992, the Government has yet to bring out regu-
lations to implement them fiiUy.
Under current law, strikes are permitted except in "essential services" such as
water supply, electricity, and telecommunications. The Government also is legally
empowered to stop a strike or suspend the workings of a trade union if it disturbs
peace and security or adversely alTects the nations economic interests. Under the
new Labor Act, a secret ballot must be held to determine whether to strike, and
a 60-percent vote in favor is required for a strike to be legal. A number of illegal
strikes took place in 1992, especially to protest retrenchment in the public enter-
}>rises under the Grovemment's program of administrative reform, but most received
ittle publicity and were ineffective.
The Trade Union Act of 1992 establishes the procedures and requirements for
forming and registering trade unions, associations, and federations, including the
provisions required in all union constitutions. The Act also protects unions and ofli-
cials from lawsuits arising from any actions taken in the discharge of official duties,
including collective bargaining.
There are no restrictions on forming confederations or joining international labor
bodies. Several federations exist, and Nepalese trade union organizations maintain
a variety of such affiliations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively. — The Labor Act of 1992 pro-
vides for collective bargaining and stipulates that an organization must have the
signatures of at least 51 percent of the eligible woikers in order to negotiate collec-
tively. Although the organizational structures (e.g., labor courts) to implement the
Act's provisions have not been created, In practice, collective bargaining has been
the primary mechanism for setting wages since April 1990.
There are no current legal provisions prohibiting discrimination by employers
against union members or oi^anizers.
lliere are no special economic zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor. — ^Article 20 of the 1990 Constitution
Erohibits traffic in human beings, slavery, serfdom, or forced labor in any form. The
•epartment of Labor enforces laws against forced labor in the organized sector of
the economy. However, bonded labor is an aspect of traditional society, and over
100,000 low-caste ethnic Tharus are estimated to be under the "Kamaiya" system
of lx)nded labor in the Terai region. (See also the discussion of trafficking in women
in Section 5.)
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children. — ^The Constitution stipulates that
children shall not be employed in factories, mines, or similar hazardous woik, and
the law establishes a minimum age for employment of minors at 16 in industry and
14 in agriculture. Despite the law, child workers are found in all sectors of the rural
and urban economies where the families consider child labor essential to alleviate
poverty. The Department of Labor's enforcement record is spotty, but in the urban
formal sector it has had some success in enforcing laws relating to permanency,
minimum wage, and holidays. However, it has seldom enforced the minimum age
law. Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), the only national social action group dedicated
to children's rights and welfare, estimates that 4.8 million Nepali children work at
least part- time. As with the population at large, the overwhelming majority of these
children are engaged in family subsistence agriculture, but chUc&en can be found,
usually doing menial jobs, in almost every occupation. C!hild employment is particu-
larly common in the smaller enterprises in construction, carpet weaving, res-
taurants, garment manufacturing, transport, and domestic work. Human rights
monitors estimate that diildren constitute between one-third and two-thirds of the
work force in the carpet industries, where they generally work long hours in
unhealthy conditions for low pay. Although a law specifically designea to protect
children's rights was passed in May, stipulating that children may not be used as
beg^rs or face discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, or sex, the Government
has little ability to implement it comprehensively.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work. — The new Labor Act sets a minimum monthly
wage in factories and in the organized labor sector. This wage is sufficient only for
the most minimal standard of living. Rates in the unorganized service sector and
in agriculture are often as much as 50 percent lower.
The Labor Act calls for a 48-hour workweek, with 1 day off, and limits overtime
to 20 hours per week. Health and safety standards, and other benefits such as a
provident fiind and maternity benefits, are also established in the Act. Implementa-
tion of the new Labor Act has been slow, as the Government has not created the
necessary regulatoiy or administrative structures to enforce its provisions.
[Source: US Dept of State]