Hundreds of women’s rights activists and their supporters protested in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu on Friday to call for an end to violence and discrimination against women and the scrapping of a proposed law that would restrict foreign travel for many women.
The point of contention is a proposed law that would require women under 40 years of age to get permission from their family and local government to travel to the Middle East or Africa. The protesters maintain that this is a violation of fundamental human rights. According to the government, the regulation would help stop human trafficking, which is a very serious issue in Nepal. Tek Narayan Poudel, information officer at the department of immigration, said, “Women under 40 are at a higher risk of trafficking and other abuses. Therefore, the new rule is proposed for their protection. Family of the visiting girl/woman and the local ward office will give a recommendation that she can travel abroad.”
The department has sent a proposal to the ministry of home affairs to amend the visit visa provision of the existing immigration procedure 2065. Additionally, non-life accident insurance of up to 15 lakh Nepalese rupees (approximately USD 12,917) has also been suggested to be made mandatory for women going abroad.
Various civil society groups and human rights organizations have decried the proposed law. Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated, “The abuse of migrant workers, including women, is a serious problem, but these policies only make it worse. Instead of denying a woman her right to leave her country, the Nepali government should better regulate recruitment agencies, work with destination country governments to put protections in place, and respond effectively to provide protection services when abuses occur. The Nepali government should include women in decision making, instead of treating them like children and second-class citizens.”
The immigration department released a press note defending the proposed law, arguing that it does not violate any constitutionally guaranteed rights. It also pointed out that the rule has been misrepresented in the media and it is just a proposal and not a law.