1994 US Department of State Annual Human Rights Report on Nepal



Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of 
government.  In 1990 the King, formerly an absolute monarch, 
legalized political parties and an interim government 
promulgated a new Constitution.  The King retains important 
residual powers but has dissociated himself from the day-to-day 
excercise of governing.  The democratically elected Parliament 
consists of the House of Representatives and the National 
Council.  A parliamentary election was held on November 15.  
Observers considered it free and fair.  The election resulted 
in a victory for the United Marxist and Leninist party (UML), 
which formed a new government.

The national police force maintains internal security, assisted 
as necessary by the Royal Nepalese Army.  Local officials have 
wide discretion in maintaining law and order.  A positive 
development was police exercise of considerable restraint in 
handling violent political demonstrations.  However, police 
mistreatment of criminal suspects continued.

Nepal is an extremely poor country, with an annual per capita 
gross domestic product estimated at around $210.  Over 80 
percent of its 20 million people support themselves by 
subsistence agriculture.  The export of carpets and garments, 
along with tourism are the major sources of foreign exchange.  
Foreign aid covers more than half of the development budget.  
The Government seeks to liberalize the economy and provide a 
greater role for the private sector.

Since the beginning of political reform in 1990, Nepal has 
progressed in its transition to a more open society with 
greater respect for human rights.  However, problems remain.  
Police continue to torture detainees.  The Government's 
unwillingness to investigate allegations of police brutality or 
take actions against those involved remaines a serious 
concern.  The Govenment continues to impose some restrictions 
on freedom of expression, and trafficking in women and child 
labor remain serious problems.  Women and the lower castes also 
suffer widespread discrimination.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In January an angry crowd attacked police after a police 
subinspector poured boiling water on a woman shopkeeper in 
Jhapa.  The police fired on the crowd, killing 1 person and 
wounding 30.  The authorities later suspended the subinspector 
but took no other actions against him or other officers.

The Government refused to investigate police officers 
responsible for the 1993 killing of more than two dozen persons 
in leftist-inspired political demonstrations and strikes.  
However, the Government has compensated the families of some of 
the victims.

Killings by political groups increased during and after the 
November 15 general elections.  In September several members of 
the radical leftist United People's Front killed a Nepali 
Congress Party (NCP) worker on his way to a party meeting in 
Rukum District.  On October 27, unknown assailants killed an 
NCP worker in Dang District.  One week later, eyewitnesses 
claim that senior NCP workers were among those who shot dead 
three Communist Party workers marching in a procession toward 
the NCP's office in Dang District.  An NCP worker was shot dead 
on November 5 in Ilam District; the authorities arrested eight 
members of the National Democratic Party for the killing.  
According to unconfirmed reports, the police killed two members 
of the radical United Peoples Front on November 27, after they 
fired on the police officers in Rolpa District.

Reported political killings continued after the election.  In 
December the NCP reported that six of its workers were killed 
in political violence after the formation of the new Government.

     b.  Disappearance

In June police removed from a Kathmandu hospital a student on a 
hunger fast in protest over government inaction on pollution; 
the student has not been seen since.  In October the Supreme 
Court issued a writ of habeas corpus, but the police maintained 
that they were not holding the student.  The case remains 
unsolved.  The case of a student activist taken into custody by 
police in June 1993 also remains unsolved, despite an ongoing 
inquiry by the Supreme Court.

The Government continues to refuse to publish the report of the 
Disappearances Commission, a body established to investigate 
all disappearances in the period from December 1960 to the 
beginning of the political transformation in 1990.  Human 
rights monitors remain skeptical of the Government's claim that 
the report's findings do not warrant governmental action.  They 
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, the law does not 
define torture as a criminal offense.  The police commonly use 
physical abuse to punish suspects or extract confessions.  The 
Government failed to conduct thorough and independent 
investigations of reports of police brutality, nor did it take 
significant disciplinary action against officers involved.  The 
Constitution provides for compensation for victims, but a 
compensation bill introduced in Parliament in 1993 remains in 

Charges of cruel treatment by police continued in 1994.  During 
periods of political unrest in the spring and summer, the 
police reportedly abused several persons arrested at 
leftist-sponsored political protests.  However, there were 
several clear incidents of torture.  Police in Patan 
headquarters kicked and beat on the soles of the feet a 
foreigner arrested in January for drug trafficking.  Several 
policemen held a stick across his thighs and jumped on it 
repeatedly, causing temporary paralysis.  Police denied that 
any such abuse occurred, but a doctor examined the man and 
judged that his allegations were credible.

In January a group of policemen beat the hand and leg joints of 
a man from Bara who filed a complaint against a police officer 
who allegedly had had an affair with the man's mother.  In 
response, an angry crowd gathered outside the station.  The 
police opened fire and wounded six persons.  The authorities 
transferred the police officer involved in the affair but took 
no other action.

In October the authorities arrested a man in Ilam District and 
charged him with illegally cutting wood.  To extract a 
confession, forest guards reportedly beat the man, inserted 
pins under his fingernails, and beat the soles of his feet.  
The man was released from custody after a court found him not 

The authorities continued to harass Tibetan asylum seekers who 
tried to cross the border from China.  In February security 
forces badly beat a Tibetan apprehended crossing the border 
near Kodari.  Approximately a dozen soldiers repeatedly kicked 
the man in the face and beat him with rifle butts, which 
resulted in temporary blindness and the loss of several teeth 
(see Section 2.d.).

Political groups also engaged in physical abuse.  Shopkeepers 
and bus drivers were stoned and beaten by members of leftist 
opposition parties after they refused to honor nationwide 

Overcrowding is common in prisons and authorities sometimes 
handcuff or fetter detainees.  Women are incarcerated 
separately from men, in equally poor conditions.  The 
Government has not implemented a provision in the 1992 
Children's Act calling for the establishment of a juvenile home 
and juvenile court.  Consequently, children are sometimes 
incarcerated with adults--either as criminals or with an 
incarcerated parent.  In May the Jail Management Department 
reported that 83 children below the age of 12 years were in 

There has been improvement in prison conditions.  The 
authorities are more likely to transfer sick prisoners to 
hospitals than they were in the past.  However, because of the 
inadequacy of medical facilities in the country, the 
authorities often place the mentally ill in jails under 
inhumane conditions.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution provides that a suspect must be arraigned or 
released within 24 hours of arrest, but the police often 
violate this provision.  Under the Public Offenses Act of 1970, 
the police must obtain warrants 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 detention, the police are authorized up to 25 
days, with a possible 7-day extension, to complete their 
investigation.  The Supreme Court on occasion has ordered the 
release of detainees held longer than 24 hours without a court 

Detainees do not have the legal right to be visited by family 
members and are permitted access to lawyers only after the 
authorities file charges.  Instead, the granting of access is 
haphazard and varies from prison to prison.  There is a system 
of bail, but bail is too expensive for most citizens.

Under the Public Security Act, the authorities may detain 
persons who allegedly threaten domestic security and 
tranquility, amicable relations with other states, and 
relations between citizens of different classes or religions.  
Persons detained under the Act are considered in preventive 
detention and are not brought to trial.  In 1994 the 
authorities used the Act primarily to detain groups of youths 
and mob leaders in advance of scheduled demonstrations.  They 
released most detainees within 48 hours.

Human rights groups report that supporters of the leftist 
parties are sometimes arrested and detained arbitrarily and 
subjected to unwarranted criminal investigations because of 
their political affiliation.

Under the 1991 amendments to the Public Security Act, the 
police are authorized to extend periods of detention after 
submitting written notices to the Home Ministry.  The district 
court must be notified of a detention within 24 hours and may 
order an additional 6 months of detention before official 
charges must be filed.

Other laws, including the Public Offenses Act, permit arbitrary 
detention.  This Act and its many amendments cover such crimes 
as disturbing the peace, vandalism, rioting, and fighting.  
Under this Act, the Government detained hundreds of civil 
servants during a 55-day antigovernment strike in 1991.  Human 
rights monitors express concern that the Act vests too much 
discretionary power in the Chief District Officer (CDO), the 
highest ranking civil servant in each of the 75 districts.  
Under the Act, he is authorized to order detentions, issue 
search warrants, and specify fines and other punishments for 
misdemeanors without judicial review.  Detainees may appeal the 
decisions of the CDO's.

The Constitution prohibits exile, and it 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 King appoints the 
judges on recommendations from the Judicial Council, a 
constitutional body chaired by the Chief Justice.  The Council 
is also responsible for the assignments of judges, disciplinary 
action, and other administrative matters.

The Constitution provides for the right to counsel, protection 
from double jeopardy and retroactive application of the law, 
and public trials, except in some security and customs cases.  
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 or suspend, commute, or remit any 

The Supreme Court has increasingly demonstrated its 
independence.  It has ruled that important provisions in the 
1992 Labor Act and the 1991 Nepal Citizenship Act are 
unconstitutional.  Appellate and district courts have become 
increasingly independent, although they sometimes bend to 
political pressure.

Military courts adjudicate cases concerning 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.

The authorities may prosecute terrorism or treason cases under 
the Treason Act.  Such trials are closed and are heard by 
specially constituted tribunals.  However, there were no such 
trials in 1994.

There is no credible evidence that the Government holds 
political prisoners.

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

The Government generally respects the privacy of the home and 
family.  Search warrants are required before search and 
seizure, except in cases involving suspected security and 
narcotics violations.  Under the Police Act of 1955, as 
amended, the police are authorized to issue warrants for search 
and seizure.  Such warrants must be approved within 24 hours by 
the Chief District Officer in misdemeanor cases and court 
judges in felony cases.

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, and that no news article or any 
other reading material shall be censored.  Nevertheless, the 
Constitution prohibits speech and writings 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.  
The Act includes penalties for violating these requirements.  
The Act also prohibits publication of material that, inter 
alia, promotes disrespect toward the King or royal family or 
undermines the dignity of the King, the integrity and 
sovereignty of the Kingdom, and security, peace, and order; 
creates animosity among the different castes amd religions; or 
adversely affects the good conduct or morality of the public.  
In 1992 the Government issued regulations amending the Act 
which established requirements for education and work 
experience to hold particular jobs in journalism.  The 
regulations also provide a basis for banning foreign 

There are scores, if not hundreds, of independent newspapers 
representing points of view across the political spectrum.  The 
two dailies with the largest circulation are government 
sponsored.  Their editors generally reflect government policy, 
but they occasionally publish articles critical of the 
Government and recommend alternative policies.  The Ministry of 
Communication occasionally provides editors with guidance.  The 
Government subsidizes newsprint materials to allow 
un-profitable papers to stay in business.

The Government owns and controls the sole radio and television 
stations.  Programming currently reflects a broader range of 
interests and political viewpoints than before the beginning of 
the political transformation in 1990, but still closely follows 
the government line.  The Government does not restrict access 
to foreign radio broadcasts or to the purchase of television 
satellite dishes.  The Broadcast Act of 1993 allows private 
parties to broadcast television and FM radio.  No private FM 
radio license was granted in 1994 although an application has 
been pending for months.  Two private television cable services 
began operations in Kathmandu in 1994, carrying foreign 
entertainment programs only.

The Government limits academic freedom to the same parameters 
as the media.  No overt efforts to enforce these limitations 
were reported in 1994.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, 
this right may be restricted by law on such vague grounds as 
undermining the sovereignty and integrity of the State or 
disturbing law and order.  There were no reports of arrests or 
detentions for exercising these freedoms in 1994.  However, 
hundreds of persons were arrested before and during violent 
strikes and demonstrations organized by leftist parties.  
Protest leaders from radical leftist groups were placed in 
preventive detention before scheduled demonstrations on a 
number of occasions.  Most were released after the 
demonstrations finished.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The majority of citizens are Hindu.  The Constitution describes 
Nepal as a Hindu kingdom, although it does not establish 
Hinduism as the state religion.  The Constitution permits the 
practice of all religions and prohibits discrimination on the 
basis of caste except for traditional religious practices at 
Hindu temples.  The Government has not interfered with the 
practice of other religions.  There is concern among 
non-Hindus, however, that a constitutional prohibition against 
converting another person could be used to limit expression of 
religious beliefs.  The authorities arrested 11 Christians in 
Ilam District in October for proselytizing near the entrance of 
a Hindu temple and blocking public access.

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

The Constitution provides for freedom of movement and 
residence, and the Government generally does not restrict 
travel abroad.  However, the Government restricts travel to 
some areas on the Chinese border to foreign tourists and 
foreign residents, such as Tibetan refugees.  The Government 
allows citizens abroad to return home and is not known to 
revoke citizenship for political reasons.

The Government has no official refugee policy and is not party 
to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.  
However, in the past, the Government accepted and assimilated 
approximately 18,000 Tibetan refugees who still reside in 
Nepal.  In the mid-1970's, the Government ceased issuing 
identification cards to over 12,000 Tibetan residents.  They do 
not have legal proof that they live in Nepal.  Some of these 
undocumented residents who wished to travel abroad in 1994 
faced difficulties from authorities.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has 
maintained an office in Kathmandu since 1989.  The Government 
aids UNHCR's efforts by facilitating access to refugees from 
both China and Bhutan.

The Governments of Nepal and China tightened movement across 
their border in 1986, but both sides observe such restrictions 
haphazardly.  The authorities continued to harass Tibetan 
asylum seekers who tried to cross the border with China.  In 
some cases, border officials demand bribes from would-be 
refugees (see Section 1.c.).  In some instances fighting has 
occurred between would-be refugees and the police.

In August the police fired on a group of 10 Tibetans who 
crossed the border in the Humla District, injuring 3 persons.  
One man was wounded by gunfire below the knee and his leg was 
later amputated.  The police claim that they were forced to 
open fire after the Tibetans attacked them and grabbed their 
weapons in an attempt to escape  The Tibetans claim that the 
police attempted to rob them.

As in previous years, the Government continued to use force to 
repatriate Tibetans to China against their will.  Reliable 
information is unobtainable, but some reports suggest the 
problem increased in 1994.

Ethnic Nepalese fleeing Bhutan continued to arrive in 1994 (see 
the report on Bhutan).  At year's end, the camps in 
southeastern Nepal housed 86,000 refugees, with another 15,000 
to 20,000 residing outside the camps.  These residents 
represent over one-sixth of Bhutan's estimated population 
before the exodus.

The UNHCR monitors the condition of the Bhutanese refugees and 
provides assistance for their basic needs.  The Government 
accepts the refugee presence on humanitarian grounds but is 
able to offer little more than a place to stay.  Living 
conditions in the camps have improved dramatically since 1992.  
Adequate clean water is available and health, sanitation, and 
nutrition standards are acceptable.  Conditions are actually 
somewhat better than those found in nearby areas.  Consequently 
violence has sometimes broken out between camp residents and 
the local population.  Relief organizations working in the 
camps sometimes distribute token relief supplies to local 
communities to defuse the situation.

In 1993 the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan formed a joint 
committee to resolve the refugee problem and to determine 
different categories of refugees in preparation for their 
future repatriation to Bhutan.  However, four rounds of talks 
have led to little concrete progress.

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

After a parliamentary defeat in July, the Prime Minister 
requested the dissolution of Parliament and called for new 
elections.  The second parliamentary election in three decades 
was held on November 15.  Citizens exercised their right to 
change their government by voting out the NCP and returning the 
UML party to power.  Although there were some irregularities, 
observers concluded that overall the elections were free and 
fair.  The UML won 88 seats, the NCP 83, the National 
Democratic Party 20, the Nepali Workers and Peasants Party 4, 
and Sadbhavana Party 3, and independents 7.  The King invited 
the UML to form a new government in November.

The people, through their elected representatives, have the 
right to amend the Constitution with the exception of certain 
basic principles which they may not changed--sovereignty vested 
in the people, the multiparty system, fundamental rights, and 
the constitutional monarchy.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled 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.  Suffrage is universal to all citizens of age 18 and 

The House of Representatives, the lower house, may send 
legislation directly to the King by a 50-percent vote.  The 
upper house, or the National Council, may amend or reject lower 
house legislation--although it may introduce legislation and 
send it to the lower house for consideration.

The King exercises certain 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, and 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.  In such an emergency, the King may suspend without 
judicial review many basic freedoms including the freedoms of 
expression and assembly, freedom from censorship, and freedom 
from preventive detention.  However, he may not suspend the 
right to form associations and of habeas corpus.  The King's 
declaration of a state of emergency must be approved by a 
two-thirds majority of the lower house of 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.

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

There are no specific laws that restrict indigenous peoples, 
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 each 
registered party must nominate at least 5 percent of its 
candidates for the House of Representatives.  Women constituted 
5 percent of party candidates in the November election.  Seven 
of 250 Members of Parliament are women.

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

There are a dozen nongovernmental human rights organizations, 
including the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON) and 
the Informal Sector Services Center (INSEC).  The Nepal Law 
Society also monitors human rights problems, and a number of 
single-issue nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) focus on 
specific problem areas such as torture, child labor, women's 
rights, or ethnic minorities.

The police regularly lend vehicles to human rights monitors to 
observe political demonstrations.  However, human rights 
organizations contend that at times the Government interferes 
with their operations.  For example, in May government 
personnel entered and inspected the offices of the Kathmandu 
chapter of Amnesty International.  The authorities claimed that 
they carried out a survey of the office in accordance with 
administrative norms, but several human rights groups 
maintained that a warrant was required for such a survey and 
organized a protest march.

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.  However, there is a caste system.  
Discrimination against lower castes and women is common, 
especially in the rural areas of western Nepal.


Although the Constitution strengthened provisions regarding 
women, including equal pay for equal work, the Government has 
not taken effective action to implement this provision.  Women 
have benefited from various changes in marriage and inheritance 
laws.  In 1994 the Supreme Court struck down as 
unconstitutional provisions of the Citizenship Law that 
discriminated against foreign spouses of Nepalese women.  
However, many laws remain discriminatory.  The law grants women 
the right to divorce--but on narrower grounds than those 
applicable to men.  The Law on Property Rights also favors men 
in a number of ways, including the division of family property, 
inheritance, and land tenancy.

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

According to the 1991 census, the literacy rate among females 
is 26 percent, compared with 57 percent among males.  Human 
rights groups report that girls attend secondary schools at a 
rate half that of boys.

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 special efforts to combat 

Trafficking in women is a deeply ingrained social problem in 
several of the poorest areas.  Estimates of the number of 
Nepalese girls and women working as prostitutes in India range 
between 150,000 to 200,000, although prostitution in the 
Kathmandu Valley is also a problem.  A children's human rights 
group states that 20 percent of the prostitutes are younger 
than 16 years old.  Women and girls are usually coerced into 
prostitution, but the extent of coercion is difficult to 
determine.  Newspapers occasionally report the arrest of those 
attempting to abduct young women or dupe them into going to 
India.  Economic incentives entice many other women.  In many 
cases, parents or relatives sell women and young girls into 
sexual slavery.  Among the Badini and Devaki of western Nepal, 
religious prostitution is a continuing problem.

The Government prosecutes some cases of coercive trafficking 
but takes few measures to stop it.  The spread of the acquired 
Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in India's red-light districts 
has discouraged the Government from promoting the return and 
rehabilitation of Nepalese prostitutes.

Government efforts focus more on preventing voluntary 
prostitution than on rehabilitation or prevention of coercive 
trafficking.  The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare sponsors 
job and skill training programs in several poor districts known 
for sending prostitutes to India.  Several NGO's have similar 

There is a growing number of women's advocacy groups, and 
nearly all political parties have their own women's groups.  
Female Members of Parliament have begun working for the passage 
of tougher laws for crimes of sexual assault, but have had 
little success so far.


The Child Act of 1992 provides legal protection for children in 
the workplace and in criminal proceedings.  Although it calls 
for the establishment of child welfare committees and 
orphanages, few such facilities have been established.  The 
Labor Act of 1992 prohibits employment of minors under 14 years 
of age, but employees widely ignored the law.

Children under the age of 16 work in all sectors of the 
economy.  Children's rights groups estimate that up to half of 
Nepal's children are engaged in income-generating activities.  
At the beginning of 1994, child labor in the carpet industry 
was prevalent, but the problem lessened by year's end.  
Government officials and carpet manufacturers concerned about 
negative publicity moved to eliminate child labor and some 
factories are establishing schools to retrain child laborers 
(see Section 6.d.).

Prostitution and trafficking in young girls are serious 
problems (see Section 5.).

Approximately 80 innocent children under the age of 12 are 
incarcerated with their parents because the Government has not 
established juvenile homes (see Section l.c.).

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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

Discrimination against lower castes is especially common 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 advancement 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.  
Although higher and better educated urban-oriented castes 
(Brahmin, Chhetri, and certain elements of the Newar community) 
continue to dominate in politics and senior administrative and 
military positions, the representation of other castes and 
ethnic groups is slowly increasing.

The Government has moved slowly in establishing programs for 
ethnic minorities and has not enacted any legislation to 
safeguard their rights.  Most government officials are Brahmin, 
Chhetri, or Newar.  Other groups or 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 their territories.

In remote areas, school lessons and national radio 
transmissions are often conducted in the local language.  
However, in areas with nearby municipalities, education at 
primary, secondary, and university levels is conducted almost 
exclusively in Nepali.  Human rights groups report that the 
languages of the small Kusunda, Dura, and Meche communities are 
nearly extinct, and that non-Hindu peoples are losing their 

     People with Disabilities

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

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the freedom to establish and join 
unions and associations.  It permits restrictions of unions 
only in cases of subversion, sedition, or similar conditions.  
Following the beginning of the political transformation in 
1990, trade unions are still developing their adminstrative 
structures to organize workers, bargain collectively, and 
conduct worker education programs.  Although trade unions were 
initially associated with political parties, they are becoming 
increasingly independent.

Union participation in the formal sector is significant, but 
this sector employs a very small portion of the labor force.  
In 1992 the Parliament passed the Labor Act and the Trade Union 
Act and formulated enabling regulations.  However, the laws 
have not yet been fully implemented.  The Trade Union Act 
establishes the procedures for establishing trade unions, 
associations, and federations.  It also protects unions and 
officials from lawsuits arising from any actions taken in the 
discharge of union duties, including collective bargaining.

The law permits strikes, except by employees in "essential 
services" such as water supply, electricity, and 
telecommunications.  The Government is empowered to halt a 
strike or suspend a union's activities if the union disturbs 
the peace or adversely affects the nation's economic 
interests.  Under the Labor Act, a legal strike must be 
approved by 60 percent of a union's membership in a vote by 
secret ballot.  However, several illegal strikes took place in 
1994, especially to protest retrenchment in public enterprises 
under the Government's administrative reform program.  Most 
received little publicity and were ineffective.

Even though implementing legislation is not yet in place, some 
unions are moving ahead quickly.  The Nepal Trade Union 
Congress, a national federation representing nearly 200,000 
members, held its first national convention in February.

The Government does not restrict unions from joining 
international labor bodies.  Several trade federations and 
union organizations maintain a variety of international 

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Labor Act provides for collective bargaining.  Although the 
organizational structures (e.g., labor courts) to implement the 
Act's provisions have not been established, collective 
bargaining has been the primary mechanism for setting wages 
since April 1990.  An estimated 20 percent of wage earners in 
the organized sector are covered by agreements.

Other than the Trade Union Act, there are no legal provisions 
prohibiting discrimination against union members or organizers 
by employers.  There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits traffic in human beings, slavery, 
serfdom, or forced labor in any form.  The Department of Labor 
enforces laws against forced labor in the small formal sector 
but is unable to enforce the law outside that sector.

Large numbers of women are forced to work against their wills 
as prostitutes (see Section 5).  Bonded labor is a continuing 
problem, especially in agricultural work.  Bonded laborers are 
usually members of lower castes.  Over 25,000 ethnic Tharu 
families are estimated to be under the "Kamaiya" or bonded 
labor system in the Terai region.  The Government has not yet 
enacted legislation or taken other significant steps to address 
the problem.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution stipulates that children shall not be employed 
in factories, mines, or similar hazardous places.  The law 
establishes a minimum age for employment of minors at 16 in 
industry and 14 in agriculture.  Children between the ages of 
14 and 16 are limited to a 36-hour workweek.  Despite the law, 
child workers are found in all sectors of the economy (see 
Section 5).

Up to half of Nepal's children are engaged in income generating 
activities, mostly in agriculture.  At the beginning of 1994, 
children constituted as much as one-third of the workers in the 
export-oriented carpet industry.  This figure dropped to about 
5 percent at year's end after negative publicity prompted the 
Government and manufacturers to move to eliminate child labor 
in carpet factories.  The Government is working with the carpet 
industry to establish a certification for carpets made without 
child labor.

The Department of Labor's enforcement record is improving.  In 
the urban formal sector, it has had some success in enforcing 
laws relating to permanency, minimum wage, and holidays.  
Government inspectors are also increasing their monitoring of 
the abuse of child labor in carpet factories.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Act sets a minimum monthly wage of $23 (1,150 rupees) 
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 International Labor 
Organization has noted that the Government has undertaken an 
effort to ensure that female workers receive equal pay for 
equal work.

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 established in the Act. 
Implementation of the new Labor Act has been slow, as the 
Government has not created the necessary regulatory or 
administrative structures to enforce its provisions.  Workers 
do not have the right remove themselves from dangerous work 
situations.  Although labor officers are authorized to order 
employers to rectify unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety 
standards has been minimal. (###)
[Source: US Dept of State]

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