1993 US Department of State Annual Human Rights Report on Nepal

TITLE:  NEPAL HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                             
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of 
government.  Formerly an absolute monarch, the King in 1990 
legalized political parties and invited formation of an interim 
government that promulgated a new Constitution.  Under the 
Constitution, the King retains important residual powers but 
has effectively dissociated himself from the exercise of 
governing.  The democratically elected Parliament consists of 
the House of Representatives (lower house) and the National 
Council (upper house).  In multiparty elections held in May 
1991, the Nepali Congress Party won a majority in the House of 
Representatives and chose G.P. Koirala as Prime Minister.

Internal security is maintained by Nepal's National Police 
Force, 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 handling law and order.  In 1993, as in previous 
years, the police on several occasions used excessive lethal 
force in quelling demonstrations, and police mistreatment of 
criminal suspects continued.    

Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, with per capita 
gross domestic product estimated at around $170.  Over 80 
percent of its 20 million people are supported by subsistence 
agriculture.  Carpet and ready-made garment sales and tourism 
revenues are the major sources of foreign exchange, and foreign 
aid covers more than half of Nepal's development budget.  Under 
the new Government, major efforts are under way to liberalize 
the economy and provide a greater role for the private sector.

Progress has been achieved in the transition to a more open 
society and greater respect for human rights since political 
reform began in 1990; however, there was no significant change 
in the human rights situation in 1993 from the previous year, 
and substantial problems remain.  During periods of 
leftist-inspired unrest in June and July, groups of 
brick-throwing youths clashed with police on several 
occasions.  Poorly trained police forces fired indiscriminately 
into crowds in at least three instances and unnecessarily 
resorted to the use of lethal force at other times.  Overall, 
at least 20 persons were killed.  There were reports of torture 
under detention and widespread reports of custodial abuse.  The 
Government's unwillingness to investigate or enforce 
accountability for recent and past abuses remained a concern.  
Some restrictions continued on freedom of expression.  
Trafficking in women and child labor remained serious 
problems.  Discrimination against women and lower castes was 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

On several occasions, government security forces responded with 
excessive force to demonstrations, some of them violent, 
organized by the principal opposition party, the Communist 
Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist (CPN/UML).  A number of 
demonstrators were killed.  On March 8, police fired into a 
crowd that was violently protesting the Tanakpur agreement 
between Nepal and India concerning water rights, after tear gas 
and the firing of blanks failed to disperse the demonstrators.  
One 15-year-old girl was killed, and two persons were wounded.

More serious political violence erupted in June after a 
government commission investigating the deaths of two senior 
UML leaders released its finding that the two died in an 
accident when their vehicle plunged into a river.  The UML 
conducted its own investigation which claimed that their 
leaders were the victims of a political conspiracy.  However, 
the party did not release its report or provide evidence to 
support its allegations.  Between June 24 and 28, a series of 
protests were called by leftist parties to pressure the 
Government into forming a new investigative commission.  The 
demonstrations turned violent in several places in Kathmandu 
and its suburb Patan.  In some instances, groups of young men 
destroyed public and private property, attempted to set fire to 
government buildings, and attacked police with stones and 
bottles.  Police initially exercised restraint, but by the 
third and fourth day of the protests police fired 
indiscriminately into crowds or at specific curfew violators.  
At least 16 people were killed, including several innocent 

Violence reignited on July 19-20, when a Communist-led call to 
halt all transport led to violent clashes with the police.  The 
police killed three boycotters in Janakpur, Chitwan, and Jhapa 
districts and two more on August 23 in Sarlahi district.

The Government compensated some of the families of those killed 
in the demonstrations with approximately $500 each and paid the 
medical expenses for some of those injured in the violence.  
The Government compensated the families of 10 people killed in 
the 1993 summer violence after the families made claims through 
the Ministry of Home Affairs.  Some families refused the offers 
of compensation.  However, the Government refused to initiate a 
formal investigation into the events of June 26-29 or July 
19-20 and did not initiate legal proceedings against the police 
officers responsible for the killings.  The Government claimed 
the use of lethal force was justified on those occasions in 
order to safeguard the police who were heavily outnumbered.  
Independent human rights monitors faulted both sides for the 
violence.  The police overreacted in firing into crowds 
indiscriminately and using deadly force before exhausting other 
options, while the demonstrators resorted to violence and stone 

Police also shot and killed a Tibetan monk and wounded several 
others on June 15 when a group of about 60 Tibetans were 
intercepted after crossing the border from China without valid 
travel documents.  The Government investigated the incident and 
promised to punish those responsible but took no action, nor 
did it release a report of the investigation by year's end.

On March 10, two policemen beat to death a man taken into 
custody in Hetauda.  They were arrested and now await trial.  
On November 1, 1992, the police in Gorkha district beat to 
death one of five persons arrested on suspicion of theft (see 
Section 1.c.).

According to numerous human rights groups, an 18-year-old male 
was reportedly arrested and taken into police custody during a 
demonstration in Bhaktapur on July 5.  Another detainee later 
reported seeing him in the Khaktapur police station and stated 
that his body was covered with blood.  After vomiting twice, 
the 18-year-old became unconscious and was left unattended 
overnight.  The following morning, police brought him to 
Kathmandu's Bir Hospital where he died.  Apparently no 
postmortem was conducted and police cremated the body soon 
after death.  One hospital employee later stated that the youth 
died of head injuries.  The Government denied this and claimed 
the youth was found lying unconscious in the street and died 
after authorities took him to the hospital.

Human rights observers also report that a 26-year-old male was 
arrested by police on July 29 in Butwal.  Reportedly drunk and 
disorderly, he was detained overnight.  On the next morning, 
police took him to the hospital where he died later that day.  
No postmortem was conducted, but witnesses say that the man's 
face and feet were grossly swollen.

     b.  Disappearance

Numerous reports suggest that a student activitist may have 
disappeared after being taken into police custody on June 25 in 
central Kathmandu.  During a crowded street demonstration, 
several eyewitnesses claim they saw the student being beaten by 
police.  Jounalists later published photographs that appear to 
show him being carried off by armed police.  Police deny taking 
him into custody, but family members say he has been missing 
ever since.  A local student group has petitioned the Supreme 
Court to file a writ of habeas corpus in this case, but the 
Court, without explanation, has postponed its decision several 
times.  Several international human rights groups have written 
to the government to express concerns about this case.

The report of the Disappearances Commission, established to 
look into all disappearances between December 1960 and the 
political transformation that began in 1990, remains 
unpublished.  Human rights groups have expressed skepticism 
about the Government's claim that the report's findings do not 
warrant governmental action.  They continue to express concern 
that persons responsible for disappearances remain in positions 
of authority.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, physical abuse by 
police is reported to be a common means of punishing or 
extracting confessions from those suspected of wrongdoing.  The 
Government rarely conducted investigations into allegations of 
police brutality or punished police officers responsible for 
abuses.  The Constitution provides for compensation to those 
subjected to physical or mental torture.  However, a torture 
compensation bill introduced in Parliament remained in 
committee at the close of the session and was not passed in 
1993  The bill, an initiative to provide quick monetary relief 
to victims of abuse by the authorities, has been opposed by 
some human rights groups for "putting a price on torture."  It 
remains in committee and is to be discussed in the next session 
of Parliament.

Information developed by local and international human rights 
groups in 1993 shed light on several instances of torture that 
occurred in late 1992.  In one case, seven men and one woman 
were taken into custody on October 29, 1992, in connection with 
a murder in Sindhuli district.  The police tortured six of them 
in an attempt to force confessions; three were beaten until 
unconscious, while two were threatened with death if they did 
not sign confessions.  Another incident took place in Kathmandu 
on October 30, 1992, after five persons were charged with bank 
fraud.  The police tortured two persons by electrical shocks, 
beat them with a pipe, and dragged them about by their hair.  
On November 1, 1992, five persons were arrested on suspicion of 
theft in the Gorkha district and severely beaten.  Medical 
doctors verified that all five received wounds consistent with 
torture.  One victim died 6 days later.  On November 23, 1992, 
five persons in Pokhara were arrested after a demonstration to 
protest the dismissal of a school's headmaster and were 
severely beaten by police with bamboo sticks.  On January 13, 
1993, the deputy superintendent of Pokhara's Kaski district was 
discharged because of the incident.  No criminal proceedings 
are known to have been brought against him, and he has not been 
disqualified from future government service.

On December 13, 1992, five policemen in Kathmandu, including a 
subinspector, raped a young woman who had been detained for 
questioning.  As part of a government investigation, medical 
evaluations indicated that her injuries were consistent with 
sexual assault and severe beatings.  The subinspector was 
subsequently discharged in January 1993, but no criminal 
proceedings were brought against him or others who participated 
in the rape.

According to a number of human rights groups, during the 
demonstrations that occurred in the Kathmandu valley June 
26-29, there were instances when police administered beatings 
indiscriminately to both adults and children in police 
custody.  The police beat 17 of the 60 children (15 years old 
or younger) detained during the protests.  Medical examinations 
of the 17 indicated that their injuries were consistent with 
beatings.  The police reportedly denied food and water to all 
60 children for 3 of their 7 days of detention.  Human rights 
groups report that they were denied permission to enter the 
detention facility where the children were held.

In the incident in which a Tibetan monk was killed near the 
Nepal-China border on June 15 (see Section l.a.), seven 
Tibetans taken into police custody were severely beaten, two of 
them to the point of unconsciousness.  In September four 
prisoners who tried to escape from an Ilam District jail 
reportedly were beaten severely with clubs by four policemen.  
On examination by doctors, one man was found to have 35 lash 
marks on his back.  

Overcrowding is common in Nepalese prison facilities, and the 
use of handcuffs and fetters is sometimes reported.  Women are 
incarcerated separately from men, in equally poor conditions.  
A provision in the 1992 Children's Act calling for the 
establishment of a juvenile home and juvenile court for 
children has not been implemented.  Consequently, children are 
sometimes incarcerated together with adults, both when they 
commit crimes themselves or when a parent has committed a crime 
and they have no other place of lodging.  There were reports 
that 6 infants and about 150 children below the age of 16 were 
in prison in 1993.  

Reflecting the low level of general medical facilities in this 
developing 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 inhumane by 
international standards.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

According to the Constitution, a suspect must be brought before 
a court within 24 hours after arrest and informed of the 
general grounds for the arrest or be released.  Under the 
Public Offenses Act of 1970, warrants are required for an 
arrest unless a person is caught in the act of committing a 
crime.  For many offenses, the case must be filed in court 
within 7 days of arrest.  If the court upholds the detention, 
the police are authorized up to 25 days, with a possible 7-day 
extension, to complete their investigation.  The Supreme Court 
on occasion ordered the release of detainees held longer than 
24 hours without a court appearance.  However, in practice, the 
police often violate this provision of the law.  Under current 
law, persons are permitted access to a lawyer only after they 
are no longer in police custody.  Lawyers report that family 
members do not have a legal right of access to detainees.  
Rather, the granting of access is haphazard and varies from 
prison to prison.  There is a functioning system of bail, but 
bail is too expensive for most Nepalese.  

The Public Security Act was often used to detain and arrest 
persons during the 1990 Movement to Restore Democracy.  The Act 
was used primarily in 1993 to detain groups of youths and mob 
leaders before scheduled demonstations.  Most detainees were 
released within 24-48 hours.  Under the 1991 amendments, police 
must present written notice to the Home Ministry to extend the 
period of detention.

The 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 official charges must be filed.  
The grounds for detention are open to broad interpretation:  to 
ensure the security of Nepal; order and tranquility inside 
Nepal; amicable relations between Nepal and other friendly 
states; or amicable relations among people of different classes 
or religions within Nepal.  Persons detained under the Act are 
considered to be held in preventive detention and are not 
brought to trial.  Human rights groups report that persons 
supportive of the CPN/UML and other opposition parties are 
sometimes arrested and detained arbitrarily and are subjected 
to unwarranted criminal investigations because of their 
political affiliation.

The revised Public Offenses Act and other laws allow for 
arbitrary detention.  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 continued to express concern that 
it vests too much power in the Chief District Officer (CDO), 
the highest ranking civil servant in each of Nepal's 75 
districts.  In addition to a wide range of administrative 
powers, CDO's are accorded the power to order detentions, issue 
search warrants, and specify fines and other punishments for 
misdemeanor crimes without judicial review.  The Public 
Offenses Act and its many amendments (the latest in 1992) cover 
such crimes as disturbing the peace, vandalism, rioting, and 
fighting.  CDO's continue to act as magistrates in these cases 
and are empowered to decide questions of guilt and to set 
penalties.  Their decisions may be appealed to appellate courts.

Exile is prohibited by the Constitution and is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system consists of three levels:  district courts, 
appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.  The judges of all 
three levels are appointed by the King upon the recommendation 
of the Judicial Council, a constitutional body chaired by the 
Chief Justice that makes recommendations and gives advice on 
matters of appointment, transfer, disciplinary action against 
judges, and other matters relating to judicial administration.

Military and civilian courts are separate.  Military courts 
generally deal only with military 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 1993, but the Treason 
Act remains in effect.  

The judiciary is legally independent.  In 1993 the process of 
judicial strengthening continued.  Human rights lawyers in 
Nepal report that the Supreme Court increasingly has 
demonstrated its independence.  For example, as the court of 
final appeal, the Supreme Court has ruled important provisions 
in the 1992 Labor Act and the 1991 Nepal Citizenship Act to be 
unconsitutional.  Further, the Supreme Court overruled the 
ruling party's contention that the Tanakpur Agreement with 
India was an "agreement" instead of a "treaty" requiring 
Parliamentary approval.  Appellate and district courts are also 
becoming increasingly independent, although they still bend to 
political pressures at times.

There is no articulated presumption of innocence under the 1990 
Constitution.  There is the right to a public trial except in 
some security and customs cases.  The Constitution provides for 
the right to counsel, protection from double jeopardy, and 
protection from retroactive application of the law.  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 declared that it has no political prisoners, and 
there is no credible evidence that any political prisoners are 
being held.  

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Government generally respected the privacy of the home and 
family.  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 of 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution specifies that all citizens shall have freedom 
of thought and expression; it also provides that no news item, 
article, or any other reading material shall be censored.  
However, Article 13 of the Constitution prohibits speech and 
press that would threaten the sovereignty and integrity of the 
Kingdom; disturb the harmonious relations among people of 
different castes or communities; promote sedition, defamation, 
contempt of court, or instigation to commit crime; or 
contradict decent public behavior or morality.  The Press and 
Publications Act provides for the licensing of publications and 
the granting of credentials to journalists and includes 
penalties for violating these requirements.  In August 1992, 
regulations issued to enforce this Act further circumscribed 
Nepal's journalists by setting specific requirements of 
education and experience in order to hold particular jobs in 
journalism.  The Act also prohibits publication of materials 
that, inter alia, promote disrespect toward the King or royal 
family or undermine the dignity of the King; undermine the 
integrity and sovereignty of the Kingdom; undermine the 
security, peace, and order of the Kingdom; create animosity 
among people of different castes, religions, etc.; or adversely 
affect the good conduct or morality of the public.  A similar 
list provides a basis for banning foreign publications.

Two journalists were arrested in April for offending the royal 
family.  One writer quoted from a book that suggested the 
King's brother may have been involved in drug smuggling.  The 
other published a retouched photo of the King's daughter and an 
Indian movie star with an insulting caption.  Both journalists 
were released on bail after 3 days.  They were charged under 
the State Offenses Act and the Press Act for offending members 
of the royal family.  A trial has not yet been held.

The two Nepalese dailies with the largest circulation are 
government organs.  While their editors may on occasion publish 
critical views and recommend alternative policies, their views 
usually tend to reflect government policy.  The Ministry of 
Communication also has provided occasional guidance to editors. 
There are scores, if not hundreds, of fully independent papers 
representing points of view across the political spectrum.  The 
Government subsidizes newsprint materials to allow less 
profitable papers to stay in business and is considering 
allowing duty-free entry of computer and fax machines for the 
registered newspaper "industry" in order to encourage further 
the flow of information.

The Government owns and controls the sole radio and television 
stations.  Programming reflects a broader range of interests 
and political viewpoints than before the political 
transformation began in 1990, but it still follows the 
government line closely.  Access to foreign radio is extremely 
widespread and is in no way controlled or restricted by the 
Government.  Access to television satellite reception is 
limited only by the high costs involved; no government 
restrictions exist.  At the end of the year, the Government 
moved towards the licensing of private radio stations and 
discussed the entry of private television and cable services.

Academic freedoms are, in general, subject to the same 
limitations as the media.  However, no overt efforts by the 
Government to enforce these limitations were reported in 1993.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  However, freedom of assembly may be legally 
restricted 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 in 
1993.  However, hundreds of persons were arrested at violent 
strikes and demonstrations organized over the summer by the 
CPN/UML (see Section 1.d.).  On several occasions, a few 
opposition leaders were placed in preventive detention before 
scheduled demonstrations.  They were released within 48 hours. 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The majority of Nepalese are Hindu, and the Constitution 
describes Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom, although Hinduism has not 
been made the state religion.  There is a large minority of 
Buddhists, a smaller number of Muslims, and a small number of 
Christians.  The 1990 Constitution protects the functioning of 
all religions but prohibits discrimination on the basis of 
caste, except for traditional practice at Hindu temples.  
Non-Hindus are allowed to practice their religion and to 
maintain places of worship.  Religious education is offered by 
non-Hindus, including Muslims and Christians.  Religious 
publications are imported mainly from India and are widely 
circulated.  Religious groups may establish their own 
organizations and acquire their own places of worship.  

A 1992 law allows self-conversion but outlaws proselytizing.  
It 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 1993.  A number of foreign Christian 
clergymen and religious workers reside in Nepal and are active 
in various fields.  

The current Government adopted relatively tolerant policies 
which allowed Christians and other non-Hindu groups to freely 
engage in a wide variety of religious activities.  Christmas 
and Id-Ul Fitr have been made legal holidays for Christians and 
Muslims, respectively.  There is continuing concern, however, 
about the prohibition against religious conversion in the new 
Constitution.  Various non-Hindu groups proposed amending this 
provision of the Constitution.  They are concerned that it 
represents an undue restriction on a person's right freely to 
express his or her religious beliefs.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens of Nepal may move freely within the country and reside 
where they wish, a right provided for in the Constitution.  
Foreigners (including Tibetan residents) 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.  Some Tibetans residing in Nepal have been prevented 
from traveling by air to India due to a lack of travel 
documents or a Nepali identification card.  However, they may 
pass freely into India by road.  Travel to other countries is 
restricted by the Tibetans' lack of valid travel documents.  
For Tibetans to travel abroad, there is a complex process often 
involving invitation letters from foreign governments and the 
issuance of temporary travel documents.  Some Tibetans do 
travel beyond India but obtaining the necessary visas and 
documents can take months of effort.

All Nepalese abroad are free to return home.  Although 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 Government aids UNHCR 
efforts by facilitating its access to refugees from both China 
and Bhutan.  In the past, Nepal accepted and assimilated 
approximately 18,000 Tibetan refugees, who still reside there.  
Over 12,000 Tibetan residents, however, are without legal proof 
that they live in Nepal since the Government ceased issuing 
identification cards in the mid-1970's.  The Government is now 
working with them to issue refugee identity cards to Tibetans 
in 1994.

Border restrictions, tightened in 1986 by a joint 
Nepalese/Chinese agreement, are observed haphazardly by both 
sides.  Some Nepalese border officials occasionally demanded 
bribes from Tibetan refugees intercepted inside the country, 
and in several instances fighting broke out between the police 
and the refugees.  On June 15, Nepalese police shot and killed 
a Tibetan monk during an extortion attempt (see Section l.a.).  
According to government policy, Tibetans intercepted inside 
Nepal are to be conveyed to UNHCR facilities in Kathmandu for 
refugee screening.  However, as in previous years, Tibetans 
continue to be repatriated involuntarily to China, especially 
from remote border regions.

Ethnic Nepalese fleeing Bhutan continued to arrive after 
suffering abuses or being expelled by Bhutanese authorities.  
(See the report on Bhutan.)  At the end of 1993, the camps in 
southeastern Nepal housed 86,000 refugees, representing almost 
one-fifth of Bhutan's estimated population before the exodus 
began.  The UNHCR monitors the condition of these refugees and 
provides assistance for their basic needs.  The Government 
tolerates their presence on a humanitarian basis, although it 
can offer them little except a place to stay.

Conditions in the refugee camps have improved dramatically 
since 1992, and the contrast in living conditions between 
UNHCR-housed refugees and relatively poorer local residents has 
created tensions that occasionally result in violence between 
the two communities.  Relief organizations in charge of 
day-to-day camp administration have begun distributing token 
relief supplies to local communities in an attempt to defuse 
the situation.  

In July the governments of Nepal and Bhutan formed a joint 
committee to resolve the refugee problem.  Its first task was 
to determine different categories of refugees in Nepal in 
preparation for the future repatriation to Bhutan of those 
refugees found to be eligible.  Little concrete progress had 
been made by year's end.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Under the Constitution promulgated in 1990, Nepal is a 
constitutional monarchy with sovereignty vested in the people.  
The people, through their elected representatives, have the 
right to amend the Constitution with the exception of certain 
basic principles of the body politic which may not be changed-- 
sovereignty vested in the people, the multiparty system, 
fundamental rights, and the constitutional monarchy.

Parliamentary elections are to be held at least every 5 years. 
Midterm elections may be called if the ruling party loses its 
majority, or loses a vote of no confidence, or if it calls for 
elections.  Universal suffrage by secret ballot is provided for 
all citizens over the age of 18.  On May 12, 1991, the people 
exercised their franchise for the first time in 32 years in a 
general election that domestic and international observers 
described as basically free and fair.  The Nepali Congress 
Party won 112 out of 205 seats in the House of Representatives 
(the lower house) and formed the Government.  The King 
appointed Girija Prasad Koirala, a leader in the Nepali 
Congress Party, as Prime Minister.  

The upper house comments on lower house bills (although it may 
also introduce legislation and send it to the lower house for 
consideration).  If the upper house considers legislation 
passed by the lower house and returns it with amendments (or 
rejects it outright), the lower house may vote on it again and, 
with a 50 percent or better majority, bypass the upper house 
and send the legislation directly to the King for his assent.  

The King exercises powers "with the advice and consent of the 
Council of Ministers."  These powers include exclusive 
authority to enact, amend, and repeal laws relating to 
succession to the throne.  The King's income and property are 
tax exempt and inviolable.  No question may be raised in any 
court about any act performed by the King.  The 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 without 
judicial review many basic freedoms, including the freedoms of 
expression and assembly, freedom from censorship, and freedom 
from preventive detention.  The rights to form associations and 
of habeas corpus may not be suspended.  The King's declaration 
of a state of emergency must be approved by a two-thirds 
majority of the lower house of the Parliament.  If the lower 
house is not in session, the upper house exercises this power.  
A state of emergency may be maintained for up to 3 months 
without legislative approval and up to 6 months, renewable only 
once for an additional 6 months, if legislative approval is 
granted.  There were no known instances in 1993 in which a 
political party was denied registration or participation in an 

The Constitution bars the registration and participation in 
elections of any political party that is based on "religion, 
community, caste, tribe, or region," or that does not operate 
openly and democratically. 

There are no specific laws that restrict indigenous people, 
women, or minorities from participating in the government or 
political parties, but lingering conservative traditions limit 
the influence of women and some castes and tribes in the 
political process.  The Constitution requires that at least 5 
percent of the candidates for the House of Representatives from 
each registered political party be women.  In 1993, 5 percent 
of party candidates were female and there were 7 female Members 
of Parliament.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Nepal has over a dozen local nongovernmental human rights 
organizations, including the Human Rights Organization of Nepal 
(HURON), the Forum for the Protection of Human Rights (FOPHUR), 
and the International Institute for Human Rights, Environment, 
and Development (INHURED).  The Nepal Law Society also monitors 
human rights issues.  In addition, there are a number of 
single-issue nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) which focus 
on issues such as torture, child labor, women's rights, or 
ethnic minorities.

Human rights organizations contend that at times the Government 
was uncooperative in 1993.  For example, they report that the 
Government has been reluctant to transfer funds provided by the 
United Nations Center for Human Rights to appropriate 
organizations which won the funds as financial awards for 
programming.  Several human rights organizations also claimed 
that a few Chief District Officers seized documentation from 
local human rights monitors that was to be used in a Nepal-wide 
human rights yearbook.  

However, the Government is working with foreign aid agencies to 
initiate human rights and nonlethal crowd control training for 
police, and it cooperates with international human rights 
groups.  Amnesty International (AI) visited Nepal in 1993, and 
AI staff met with a large number of government officials. 

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution specifies that the State shall not 
discriminate against citizens on grounds of religion, race, 
sex, caste, or ideology.  In practice, however, discrimination 
against women and lower castes is widespread.  


Women face gender discrimination, particularly in rural areas, 
where the weight of religious and cultural tradition, lack of 
education, and ignorance of the law remain severe impediments 
to the exercise of such basic rights as the right to vote or to 
hold property in their own names.

According to the 1991 census, the female literacy rate is 26 
percent, compared to a male literacy rate of 57 percent.  Human 
rights groups report that throughout the country girls attend 
secondary schools at half the rate boys do.  

Over the years, women have benefited from various changes in 
marriage and inheritance laws.  The new Constitution 
strengthened provisions regarding women, including equal pay 
for equal work, although the Government had not effectively 
implemented this provision by year's end.  Moreover, many laws 
remain discriminatory.  Divorce law grants women the right to 
divorce, but on narrower grounds than those available to men.  
Likewise, the law governing property rights favors men in a 
number of ways, including in the division of family property, 
the disposition of property, inheritance, and land tenancy.

Women's rights groups report that wife beating is common.  
Little public attention is given to violence against women in 
the home, and the Government made no specific efforts to combat 
it.  However, human rights monitors, including Members of 
Parliament, are working to teach women about their rights under 
the Constitution, and several have offered free legal services 
in court cases involving violence against women.

Abortion is illegal even in cases involving rape or incest.  
Only when the health of the mother would be in jeopardy by 
giving birth is an abortion legally allowed.  Illegal abortion, 
reportedly not uncommon, is one of the main reasons for 
imprisonment of women in Nepal.

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 
range between 150,000 to 200,000.  A children's human rights 
group in Nepal states that 20 percent of these prostitures are 
younger than 16 years old.  Coercion is usually involved, 
although it is difficult to gauge its extent.  Newspapers 
occasionally report the arrest of persons attempting to abduct 
young women or trick them into going to India.  In January a 
man was sentenced to 5 years in prison, and in March a woman 
was sentenced to 3 years, for trafficking.  In many cases, 
parents or relatives sell women into sexual slavery.  The 
tradition of religious prostitution among the Badini and Devaki 
of western Nepal is a continuing concern.

The Government prosecutes cases of coercive trafficking brought 
to its attention, but has taken few active measures to stop 
it.  The spread of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome 
(AIDS) in India's red-light districts 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 or prevention of coercive 
trafficking.  The Women's Development Division of the Ministry 
of Labor and Social Welfare sponsors income-generating skill 
training programs in several districts known for sending 
prostitutes to India.  Several nongovernmental organizations 
have similar programs.  

A growing number of women's advocacy groups are taking up 
women's issues.  Nearly all political parties have their own 
women's groups which press for women's causes.  In Parliament, 
women members have begun working for the passage of tougher 
laws for crimes of sexual assault but with little success.


The Child Act of 1992 establishes legal protections for 
children in the workplace and in criminal proceedings.  It 
calls for the establishment of child welfare committees and 
orphanages, although many of these facilities are not yet in 
place.  The Labor Act of 1992 prohibits employment of minors 
under 14 years of age and provides that nurseries must be 
established in workplaces with more than 50 people.  Also, the 
Government has worked closely with NGO's and the private sector 
to create a "child labor-free" certification to be used in the 
carpet industry.  

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Nepal is still largely a traditional society wedded to the 
caste system, and caste discrimination is common, especially in 
the rural areas of western Nepal.  Although the public shunning 
of "untouchables" has been outlawed, an exception was retained 
for traditional practices at Hindu religious sites.  Economic, 
social, and educational discrimination 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 opportunities for lower socioeconomic groups.  
Politics and senior jobs in the government administration and 
army in Nepal continue to be dominated by higher and better 
educated urban-oriented castes (Brahmin, Chhetri, and certain 
elements of the Newar community).  However, the representation 
of other castes and ethnic groups is increasing slowly.

Nepal has over 75 ethnic groups speaking 50 languages.  The 
Constitution provides that "each community residing within the 
Kingdom of Nepal shall have the right to preserve and promote 
its language, script, and culture."  Furthermore, the 
Constitution specifies that each community has the right to 
operate schools up to the primary level in its mother tongue.

Despite these constitutional provisions, the Government has not 
enacted legislation or established programs to safeguard the 
rights of ethnic groups that are not a part of the ruling 
class.  Most government administrators are Brahmin, Chhetri, or 
Newar.  Other ethnic groups and castes not in the governing 
elite are unable to participate fully in decisions affecting 
their lands, cultures, traditions, and the allocation of 
natural resources in the territories they inhabit.  In remote 
rural areas, school lessons are conducted in the native 
language of the community.  In less remote areas and in areas 
with nearby municipalities, education at primary, secondary, 
and university levels is conducted almost exclusively in the 
Nepali language.  Human rights organizations report that the 
languages of the small Kusunda, Dura, and Meche communities are 
nearly extinct and that non-Hindu peoples are losing their 
culture over time.

     People with Disabilities

Persons who are physically disabled normally rely on family 
members to assist them.  There are no government programs 
specifically designed to deal with the problems faced by 
disabled persons, nor has legislation been enacted to mandate 
accessibility for the disabled to public buildings.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Article 12 of the Constitution provides for the freedom to form 
and to join unions and associations.  According to the 
Constitution, unions may be legally restricted only in cases of 
subversion, sedition, or similar conditions.  Since the 
political transformation began in 1990, there has been an 
increase in trade union activity in every sector.

Nepal's trade unions were initially linked closely to political 
parties.  However, as the unions develop their administrative 
structures, they are becoming increasingly independent of 
political influence.  Nepal's largest trade unions are the 
National Trade Union Congress and the General Federation of 
Nepalese Trade Unions.  The first is associated with the ruling 
Nepali Congress Party, the second with the opposition Communist 
Party of Nepal.

Union participation in the formal sector is significant, but 
this sector accounts for only a very small portion of Nepal's 
overall labor force.  Due to their recent formation and the 
country's lack of experience with trade unionism, unions are 
still developing effective structures for organizing, 
collective bargaining, and education.  The Parliament passed 
new labor and trade union acts in 1992, and the Government 
passed regulations to implement these acts.

Under the law, strikes are permitted except in "essential 
services" such as water supply, electricity, and 
telecommunications.  The Government is legally empowered to 
stop a strike or suspend the functioning of a trade union if it 
disturbs peace and security or adversely affects the nation's 
economic interests.  Under the new Labor Act, a secret vote 
must be held to determine whether to strike, and 60 percent of 
the members must favor a strike for it to be legal.  A number 
of illegal strikes took place in 1993, especially to protest 
retrenchment in public enterprises under the Government's 
program of administrative reform.  Most received little 
publicity and were ineffective.

The 1992 Labor Act presents several steps to strengthen 
workers' rights, but it specifies that an employee's wages may 
be limited, or that he may be dismissed, if he "goes on strike 
without fulfilling the legal formalities..."  Similarly the Act 
specifies that a manager may be fined up to approximately $100 
if he illegally removes workers, continues a lockout, or 
"provokes" workers.  Labor officers and labor courts have wide 
powers, in theory, to order managers to comply with their 

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.  It also protects unions 
and officials from lawsuits arising from any actions taken in 
the discharge of official duties, including collective 

There are no restrictions on forming confederations or joining 
international labor bodies.  Several federations exist, and 
Nepalese trade union organizations maintain a variety of 
international affiliations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Act provides for collective bargaining and stipulates 
that an organization must have the signatures of at least 51 
percent of the eligible workers in order to negotiate 
collectively.  The Government has passed implementing 
regulations, but the appropriate agencies must be funded and 
staffed.  Although the organizational structures (e.g. labor 
courts) to implement the Act's provisions have not been 
created, collective bargaining has been the primary mechanism 
for setting wages since April 1990.

Other than the Trade Union Act (see above), there are no clear 
legal provisions prohibiting discrimination against union 
members or organizers by employers.

There are no special economic zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Article 20 of the Constitution prohibits forced labor in any 
form.  The Department of Labor enforces laws against forced 
labor in the small formal sector of the economy.  However, 
bonded labor is an aspect of traditional Nepalese society and 
is especially prevalent in agricultural work.  Over 100,000 
ethnic Tharus are estimated to be bonded laborers in the Terai 
region of southern Nepal.  (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 work, 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 economy.  According to a 
children's rights group, Child Workers in Nepal, 57 percent of 
children are employed.  Most child laborers are employed in the 
agricultural sector, though reports suggest that as many as 
half of the workers in Nepal's growing carpet industry are 
children.  Under the 1992 Labor Act, minors aged 14 to 18 are 
not allowed to work more than 6 hours per day nor more than 36 
hours per week and are not allowed to work outside of the hours 
of 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  For adults, working hours are 8 
hours per day and 48 hours per week.  Overtime for adults is to 
be paid at 150 percent of usual wages.

The Department of Labor's enforcement record is spotty.  It has 
had some success in enforcing laws in the urban formal sector  
relating to permanency, minimum wage, and holidays.  In 1993 
the Department fined 23 factories for employing child labor.  
Discussion in a number of Western countries about banning 
imports produced by child labor has had an impact in Nepal, 
where carpet exports to the West provide the largest source of 
foreign exchange.  Concerned that Western countries might soon 
begin to ban carpets produced by children, Nepali 
manufacturers, NGO's, and government agencies announced a 
certification program under which "child labor-free" carpets 
are to be produced and sold.  Overall, however, the 
Government's action has been inadequate to reduce the incidence 
of child labor.  After raids and the subsequent fining of the 
23 factories employing child labor, the Government charged no 
other companies with violations in this area, despite the fact 
that child labor is endemic.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The 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 per 
week, and limits overtime to 20 hours per week.  Health and 
safety standards and other benefits such as a provident fund 
and maternity benefits are also stipulated in the Act.  
Implementation of the Act has been slow, as the Government has 
not created the necessary regulatory or administrative 
structures to enforce its provisions.  The Act and its 
implementing regulations spell out health and safety features 
that employers must put in place, but the right of workers to 
remove themselves from dangerous work situations is not 
mentioned.  Labor officers are empowered to order employers to 
rectify unsafe conditions and to close facilities where unsafe 
conditions persist.
[US Dept of State]

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