On August 4, Nepal’s Supreme Court dismissed a case that had aimed to overturn the country’s abortion law, which allows abortion upon request up to 12 weeks. The law was challenged by attorney Achyut Kharel in 2005 on the grounds that it discriminates against men, as it allows a woman to terminate a pregnancy without requiring the consent of a husband. With technical support from the Center, the Nepal-based Forum for Women, Law, and Development (FWLD) convinced the Court that a spousal consent requirement for abortion would violate women’s human rights under international law and Nepal’s constitution.
Nepal is a country where access to safe and legal abortion has become a prominent issue, largely as a result of tenacious advocacy by the Center, FWLD, and other key partners. In 2006, with the adoption of an interim constitution, Nepal became the first country in the region to explicitly recognize a woman’s reproductive rights as constitutionally protected fundamental rights. Unfortunately, these groundbreaking changes on paper have not translated into universal access. The Center and FWLD are now taking on public interest cases to fight for a woman’s right to obtain the now-legal service.