Nepal Domestic Violence Crime and Punishment Bill
Network partners announced the passage and adoption of the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Bill, 2008 by the Parliament in Nepal on 19th April 2009. Domestic Violence has been one of the primary obstacles in the process of achieving gender equality and ensuring gender justice in Nepal, a country in which 50.05 % of the total population are women. Statistics collated by the Women's Cell depict registration of 1100 complaints for offences considered as acts of domestic violence during the year 2007 - 2008, and 881 cases registered during 2008 - 2009. While there exists no statistics on the number of cases resulting in court action, statistics collated internally at FWLD alone depicts 70% of cases brought to its legal aid cell to be related to one or other forms of domestic violence.
It has also been of concern that cases concerning acts of domestic violence are often not brought to the notice of appropriate authorities beyond the established fact that such for of torture often results in the death of a woman whether brought upon by the perpetrator directly or by the woman herself in despair.
The Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007 has guaranteed the right of a woman against violence as a fundamental right under Article 20 (3). Constitutional remedies also allow a woman to seek recourse when fundamental rights including the right against discrimination on the basis of sex and the right against discrimination on the basis of cultural and traditional practices are violated. However due to the absence of a comprehensive and enabling legislation to implement the right guaranteed under Article 20, women have been repeatedly victimized within their own homes, by their near and dear ones. In addition due to the lack of adequate provisions under the existing criminal justice system in Nepal relating to acts of domestic violence, perpetrators are often not held accountable for their actions resulting in an environment of impunity.
The Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) has been actively working with the State and its stakeholders for the drafting of a separate legislation on domestic violence and advocacy towards its enactment in collaboration with other organizations namely, LACC, Jagaran Nepal, Saathi, FEDO, Sath Sath, Maiti Nepal, Crehpa, SAP- Nepal, CAC Nepal, Lawyers and Counselors' Forum, Daywalka Foundation, Movement for Social Justice and CWAD. A public campaign was started in the above-mentioned partnership two years back, to pressurize the Government for the speedy enactment of the law. April 2009 marked the 25th episode of this campaign.
Nepal Government registered the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Bill, 2008 with the Legislature-Parliament on 3rd June 2008. Due to the large number of amendment proposals the Bill was sent to the Legislation Committee of the Constituent Assembly which in turn formed a Sub-Committee to finalise the Bill. Adv. Sapana Pradhan Malla was appointed the chair of this sub-committee consisting of other members of the Constituent Assembly. Recommendations from the said sub-committee were submitted with amendments to the Parliament. This process ultimately resulted in the successful passage of the Bill on 19th April 2009. In light of the present political scenario and rampant human rights violations both by state and non-state actors, the passage of this Bill is distinctly symbolic and has ushered immense hope towards ensuring protection of women's human rights.
The Bill beyond bringing the private sphere under the purview of law through recognition of violence within the home as a criminal offence, provides for compensation to the victim, interim order for the protection of the victim and their dependants, and specific role to service providers as support mechanisms. Violence is defined to cover mental, sexual and economic violence within the Bill. It also requires the perpetrator to cover the medical expenses of the victim stipulating the service centres to provide the same in instances that the perpetrator cannot. Ensuring access to justice and other resources the Bill requires service centers to provide legal aid and psycho-social counseling to the victim as and when required. Lastly in its attempt to ensure higher level of accountability the Bill stipulates enhanced punishment for repeat offenders and public servants who commit acts of domestic violence.
As an agent of the civil society Forum for Women Law and Development (FWLD) in addition to assisting in dissemination of information regarding the law shall endeavor to continue advocacy for the allocation of budget, and the establishment of service centers with the Government only after which this newly enacted legislation can be said to have been implemented and practically realized.