Nepal Enacts Legislation to Protect Women’s Rights to Bodily Autonomy

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(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights welcomes Nepal ‘s official enactment of the “Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, 2018” (RH Act). The act has been endorsed by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari of Nepal, signifying the country’s commitment to safeguarding the bodily autonomy of women and girls,

 “The enactment of the RH Act is a huge victory for women in Nepal, demonstrating the government’s acknowledgment of the critical role that reproductive health care plays in the lives of women and girls,” said Nancy Northup, the President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, “These changes will help Nepal to implement constitutional protections against reproductive rights abuses and forced marriage.”

“The Center will continue to work with local partners and the Nepalese government toward guaranteeing women and girls the ability to exercise their right to bodily autonomy in all contexts. This is a step in the right direction and the Center is proud to have contributed to the long-awaited victory,” added Northup.

The RH Act differs from previous measures in that it provides a clear definition of reproductive rights as a subset of human rights, with a clear mandate local and national municipality must follow.  A critical component of defining reproductive services as human rights is that they must be universally guaranteed to women and girls. The act specifically emphasizes availability to adolescents and disabled individuals.

The act also contains a provision that makes reproductive health care free of charge in public health facilities, requiring all levels of government to allocate resources, permitted up to 12 weeks and up to 28 weeks in the case of rape and incest, or with a certified medical official’s suggestion based on physical and mental threats to the mother’s health as well as fetal anomalies.

The Center for Reproductive rights has worked in Nepal for almost two decades and was instrumental in the Nepalese government’s recognition of reproductive health services and freedom from child and forced marriage as fundamental human rights that must, at all levels, be enforced and indiscriminately accessible to women and girls in the country.

Through extensive legal intervention, local advocacy, in-depth research and collaboration with local partners, the Center has established a unique authority in Nepal in collaboration with local partners.  In 2013, the Center issued a report entitled “Child Marriage in South Asia: Stop the Impunity,” which highlighted the prevalence of atrocious human rights abuses that girls forced into early marriages suffer, such as domestic abuse and marital rape, both of which place girls’ reproductive lives at risk and eliminate any possibility of bodily autonomy.