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Title:  Nepal Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 

                                  NEPAL 
 
 
Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of 
government and an independent judiciary.  In 1990 the King, formerly an 
absolute monarch, legalized political parties after which an interim 
government promulgated a new constitution.  The King retains important 
residual powers but has dissociated himself from the direct exercise of 
governance.  The democratically elected Parliament consists of the House 
of Representatives (lower house) and the National Council (upper house).  
Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, Nepal has held three 
national elections, two for the Parliament and one for local officials.  
International observers consider these elections to have been generally 
free and fair.  The Government changed hands in September, and the 
transfer of power to the new coalition was peaceful. 
 
The national police force maintains internal security, assisted as 
necessary by the Royal Nepalese Army.  The army is traditionally loyal 
to the King and avoids involvement in domestic politics.  The police are 
subject to civilian control, but local officials have wide discretion in 
maintaining law and order.  While the police continue to exercise 
restraint in handling violent political demonstrations (with one notable 
exception), they continue to be responsible for abuses in custody.   
 
Nepal is an extremely poor country, with an annual per capita gross 
domestic product estimated at around $200.  Over 80 percent of its 20 
million people support themselves through subsistence agriculture.  
Principal crops include rice, wheat, maize, jute, and potatoes.  Tourism 
and the export of carpets and garments provide the major sources of 
foreign exchange.  Foreign aid accounts for more than half of the 
development budget.  The economy is mixed with 60 public sector 
industries, some of which the Government has privatized. 
 
Since political reform began in 1990, Nepal has progressed in its 
transition to a more open society with greater respect for human rights.  
However, problems remain because the Government fails to enforce all of 
the Constitution's provisions.  The police continue to abuse detainees, 
often using physical abuse as punishment or to extract confessions.  The 
Government remains unwilling to investigate allegations of police 
brutality or to take action against those involved.  The authorities 
employ arbitrary arrest and detention, and prison conditions remain 
poor.  The Government continues to impose some restrictions on freedom 
of religion and expression.  Lower castes and women suffer widespread 
discrimination.  Trafficking in women and girls and child labor remain 
serious problems.  Violence against women and forced labor are also 
problems.  The previous Government, run by the Communist Party of Nepal 
United Marxist-Leninist (UML), detained and forcibly repatriated Tibetan 
asylum seekers. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings.  However, 
in June a man died while in police custody in Hetauda (central Nepal).  
The authorities detained the man as part of the investigation of a 
traffic accident despite injuries that he sustained in the accident.  
The following day the police rushed the unconscious man to a hospital, 
where doctors declared him dead on arrival.  In Bharatpur (Central 
Nepal) a 37-year-old man arrested for drunkenness died in police custody 
in December.  Police said he cut himself on broken glass and bled to 
death.  It is unclear whether he died from police abuse or medical 
neglect.  In January a young girl incarcerated with a parent reportedly 
died from lack of medical treatment (see Sections 1.c. and 5). 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.   
 
Two student activists that the police took into custody in 1993 and 1994 
remain missing.  The Supreme Court has investigated these 
disappearances, but the police maintain that they are not holding the 
students. 
 
   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 to extract confessions.  Credible evidence 
indicates that an arrested American was kicked and beaten with bamboo 
sticks by police in March.  The Government has failed to conduct 
thorough and independent investigations of reports of police brutality 
and refused to 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 committee. 
 
On July 24, police fired into a crowd in Mugu (western Nepal) protesting 
a speech by the Deputy Prime Minister.  The police injured 21 Nepali 
Congress Party (NCP) members during this incident. 
 
Political groups engaged in physical abuse and violence.  Members of 
opposition parties stoned bus drivers and attacked shop owners who 
refused to honor nationwide strikes.  On July 25, a UML member and a 
Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP) supporter suffered injuries 
during a clash between UML party members and a group composed of NCP and 
National Democratic Party (NDP) supporters in Jumla during another 
speech by the Deputy Prime Minister. 
 
Prison conditions are poor.  Overcrowding is common, and authorities 
sometimes handcuff or fetter detainees.  Women are incarcerated 
separately from men, but in similar 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.  Concerned groups estimate that 74 children 
remained in prison in 1995.  In January a 5-year old girl, the daughter 
of an inmate, died from lack of medical treatment for a respiratory 
infection, according to a human rights group (see Sections 1.a. and 5). 
 
There has been some improvement in prison conditions.  The authorities 
are more likely to transfer sick prisoners to hospitals than they were 
in the past.  Due to the inadequacy of medical facilities in the 
country, the authorities often place the mentally ill in jails under 
inhumane conditions.  The Government permits local human rights groups 
to visit prisons. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution stipulates that the authorities must arraign or release 
a suspect 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 the detention, the law 
authorizes the police to hold the suspect for 25 days to complete their 
investigation, with a possible extension of 7 days.  The Supreme Court 
on occasion ordered the release of detainees held longer than 24 hours 
without a court appearance.  The police often violate this provision by 
arbitrarily holding suspects. 
 
Detainees do not have the legal right to receive visits by family 
members and are permitted access to lawyers only after the authorities 
file charges.  In practice, the police grant access to prisoners on a 
haphazard basis that varies from prison to prison.  There is a system of 
bail, but bonds are usually 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 that the Government detains under the Act are 
considered in preventive detention and are not brought to trial. 
 
The 1991 amendments to the Public Security Act allow the authorities to 
extend periods of detention after submitting written notices to the Home 
Ministry.  The police must notify the district court of the detention 
within 24 hours, and the court may order an additional 6 months of 
detention before authorities file official charges. 
 
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 
country's 75 districts.  The Act authorizes the CDO to order detentions, 
to issue search warrants, and to specify fines and other punishments for 
misdemeanors without judicial review.  Detainees may appeal the 
decisions of the CDO's. 
 
There were no reports of political detainees.   
 
The Constitution prohibits exile; it is not practiced. 
 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The judiciary has shown independence at the level of the Supreme Court, 
but is vulnerable to pressure from political parties and bribery at 
lower levels.   
 
The Supreme Court ruled that important provisions in the 1992 Labor Act 
and in the 1991 Nepal Citizenship Act are unconstitutional.  The Court 
decided that the dissolution of the Parliament at the request of the 
former Prime Minster in June 1995 was unconstitutional and ordered the 
body restored on August 28.   
 
Appellate and district courts have also become increasingly independent, 
although they sometimes bend to political pressure.  In a recent 
example, a district court complied with a central Government request to 
withdraw two murder charges against the current Home Minister in 
November.  The Home Minister holds the highest law enforcement position 
in the land, and several human rights organizations have criticized this 
action, even though the request is legally permissible. 
 
The judicial system consists of three levels:  district courts, 
appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.  The King appoints judges on 
the recommendation of the Judicial Council, a constitutional body 
chaired by the chief justice.  The Council is also responsible for the 
assignment 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, and 
he can suspend, commute, or remit any sentence. 
 
Military courts adjudicate cases concerning military personnel, who are 
immune from prosecution in civilian courts.  In 1992 the Supreme Court 
ruled that military courts may no longer try civilians for crimes 
involving the military. 
 
The authorities may prosecute terrorism or treason cases under the 
Treason Act.  Specially constituted tribunals hear these trials in 
closed sessions.  However, no such trials took place during the year. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Government generally respected the privacy of the home and family.  
Search warrants are required before search and seizure except in cases 
involving suspected security and narcotics violations.  As amended, the 
Police Act of 1955 empowers the police to issue warrants for search and 
seizure in criminal cases upon receipt of information about criminal 
activities.  Within 24 hours of their issuance, warrants in misdemeanor 
cases must be approved by the CDO.  Court judges must approve them 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 the Government may not censor any news 
item or other reading material.  Nevertheless, the Constitution 
prohibits speech and writing that would threaten the sovereignty and 
integrity of the Kingdom; that would disturb the harmonious relations 
among people of different castes or communities; that would promote 
sedition, defamation, contempt of court, or instigation to commit crime; 
or that would 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 promotes disrespect toward 
the King or royal family; that undermines security, peace, order, the 
dignity of the King, and the integrity or sovereignty of the kingdom; 
that creates animosity among people of different castes and religions; 
or that adversely affects the good conduct or morality of the public.  
The regulation also provides a basis for banning foreign publications. 
 
Although there are hundreds of independent vernacular and English 
newspapers representing various political points of view, most have a 
small circulation and limited impact.  The Government owns the 
vernacular daily paper with the largest circulation.  Editors and 
writers at the government paper practice self-censorship and generally 
reflect government policy.  Ruling political parties have influenced the 
editorial policy of the government paper to their advantage. 
 
The Government owns and controls the major radio and television 
stations.  Radio reaches the greatest number of people and has the 
largest influence.  Programming currently reflects a broader range of 
interests and political viewpoints than prior to 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 which can access 
international news from the British Broadcasting Corporation and Cable 
News Network.  The Broadcast Act of 1993 allows private parties to 
broadcast television and FM radio.  There are two private television 
stations (cable and microwave) which have been operating for over a year 
in the Kathmandu Valley.  They provide mainly entertainment programming 
and do no local research or reporting.  No private FM radio licenses 
have yet been granted, although at least seven have been requested.  
Some broadcasters, who have purchased equipment and are ready to begin 
broadcasting, have been awaiting licenses for 2 years.  A Government 
station began broadcasting in November.   
 
There has been much debate about liberalizing the media generally and 
privatizing government-owned media in particular.  This debate has put 
pressure, so far successfully resisted, on successive governments to 
open up the air waves and sell off government-controlled printing press 
operations.   
 
The Government limits academic freedom to the same extent as the media.  
No overt efforts to enforce these limitations were reported this year. 
 
   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 arrest or detention for exercising these 
freedoms. 
 
   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.  Although the Government has 
generally not interfered with the practices of other religions, 
conversion is prohibited and punishable with fines or imprisonment, and 
police occasionally harass members of minority religions.  Some groups 
are concerned that the ban on proselytizing limits the expression of 
non-Hindu religious belief.  Foreigners convicted of proselytizing can 
be expelled from the country. 
 
Eleven Christians were arrested in September 1994 for proselytizing and 
sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment in August.  The case received 
considerable international attention.  The 11 were pardoned by the King 
and released on Constitution Day, November 9.   
 
   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 to foreign residents, such as Tibetans residing in 
Nepal.  The Government allows citizens abroad to return home and is not 
known to revoke citizenship for political reasons. 
 
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 Bhutan. 
 
The Government has no official refugee policy and is party to neither 
the 1951 U.N. Convention nor the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of 
Refugees.  Since 1959 the Government has accepted approximately 20,000 
Tibetan refugees many of whom still reside in the country.  In the mid-
1970's, the Government suspended issuance of identification cards to 
Tibetans.  Undocumented Tibetan residents face difficulties in obtaining 
basic citizens' rights and are unable to travel abroad or access such 
services as banking.  Some also face possible deportation.  The UNHCR 
now donates blank resident identification cards to the Government for 
Tibetans.  Issuance resumed in early 1995.  By mid-July, issuance of 
identification cards to about 5,000 out of an estimated 7,000 Tibetan 
residents outside the Kathmandu Valley was completed.  Due to logistical 
and political obstacles, issuance of identification cards to Kathmandu's 
approximately 13,000 Tibetan refugees has been suspended. 
 
China and the Government of Nepal tightened movement across their border 
in 1986, but both sides have observed such restrictions haphazardly.  
The authorities continued to harass Tibetan asylum seekers who tried to 
cross the border from China.  Border police often turn back asylum 
seekers or extort money from Tibetans in exchange for passage.  Early in 
the year, the UML Government reversed a tacit policy of conveying 
Tibetan asylum seekers to the UNHCR facility in Kathmandu for processing 
and onward travel to India.  Although the UML Government officially 
denied any change in policy, some Tibetans apprehended in border areas 
were turned over to Chinese officials and others, who had reached the 
capital, were deported. 
 
Through late July, the UNHCR had confirmed reports of forced 
repatriation of about 200 Tibetan asylum seekers.  The reduced number of 
Tibetan asylum seekers processed by UNHCR this year reflects this 
change.  From February to May, only one-third of the 1993 and 1994 
volume of refugees for the corresponding period was processed by UNHCR. 
 
Various embassies and the UNHCR protested the Government's "deny and 
deport" actions.  As a result of these protests, the UML Government 
appeared to improve its cooperation with UNHCR since July, at least in 
cases that came to UNHCR's attention.  In October the head of the new 
coalition Government reaffirmed the previous policy of respect for 
internationally respected rights for asylum seekers. 
 
The number of ethnic Nepalese fleeing Bhutan declined in 1995.  
Nevertheless, the camps in southeastern Nepal house 90,000 refugees.  
Upwards of an estimated 15,000 reside outside the camps in either Nepal 
or India.  The total represents over one sixth of Bhutan's estimated 
population before the exodus began. 
 
The UNHCR monitors the condition of the Bhutanese refugees and provides 
for their basic needs.  The Government accepts the refugee presence on 
humanitarian grounds but offers 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.  Violence has sometimes broken out between 
camp residents and the local population.  Relief organizations working 
in the camps sometimes distribute token relief supplies to defuse the 
situation.  The German Government recently agreed to fund a 4-year 
program aimed at improving conditions in communities adjacent to the 
camps. 
 
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 future repatriation.  Six rounds of 
bilateral talks have been held with little concrete progress. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens, through their elected representatives, have the right to amend 
the Constitution with the exception of certain basic principles that 
they may not change--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, loses a vote of no 
confidence, or calls for elections.  The Constitution grants suffrage to 
all citizens age 18 and over. 
 
The November 1994 elections were generally fair, but some irregularities 
occurred, including vote tampering.  A three-party coalition now has a 
majority in Parliament after passing in September a no-confidence motion 
against the previous minority government.  In June the minority Prime 
Minister had attempted to block the motion by asking the King to 
dissolve Parliament and call midterm elections.  The current coalition 
parties challenged this action.  In August the Supreme Court ruled the 
former Prime Minister's request unconstitutional and ordered Parliament 
restored.  The transfer of power was generally peaceful. 
 
The House of Representatives, or lower house, may send legislation 
directly to the King by majority vote.  The National Council, or upper 
house, may amend or reject lower house legislation but the lower house 
can overrule its objections.  The upper house may also 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 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 habeas corpus or the right to form 
associations.  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 the legislature grants approval. 
 
The Constitution bars the registration and participation in elections of 
any political party that is based on "religion, community, caste, tribe 
or region," or that does not operate openly and democratically. 
 
There are no specific laws that restrict women, indigenous people, or 
minorities from participating in the Government or in political parties.  
Lingering conservative traditions limit the roles of women and of some 
castes and tribes in the political process.  The Constitution requires 
that 5 percent of each party's candidates for the House of 
Representatives must be women.  Seven of the 205 members of the lower 
house of the current Parliament are women.  In the upper house, 4 of 60 
members 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 in Nepal.  
These include the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON), the 
Informal Sector Services Center (INSEC), and the International Institute 
for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED).  The Nepal Law 
Society also monitors human rights abuses and a number of 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) focus on specific areas such as 
torture, child labor, women's rights, or ethnic minorities.  The police 
regularly loan vehicles to human rights monitors to observe political 
demonstrations.  Human rights organizations contend, however, that the 
Government sometimes interferes with their operations. 
 
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 still a caste system.  Discrimination against lower 
castes and women remains common, especially in the rural areas of 
western Nepal. 
 
   Women 
 
Women's rights groups report that wife beating is common.  Little public 
attention is given to violence against women in the home; the Government 
makes no special effort to combat it.  Rape and incest are also 
problems, particularly in rural areas.   
 
Trafficking in women and girls remains a deeply ingrained social problem 
in several of the country's poorest areas.  Estimates of the number of 
girls and women working as prostitutes in India range between 150,000 
and 200,000.  The best available data suggest that approximately 5,000 
to 7,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 are abducted into 
prostitution each year.  Prostitution is also a problem in the Kathmandu 
valley.  A children's human rights group in Nepal states that 20 per 
cent of prostitutes are younger than 16 years old.  Economic incentives 
entice many women to become prostitutes.  In many cases, parents or 
relatives sell women and young girls into sexual slavery.  Among the 
Badini and Devaki of western Nepal, religious prostitution remains a 
problem. 
 
The Government prosecutes some cases of coercive trafficking but takes 
few active measures to stop it.  The fear of the spread of AIDS by 
returning prostitutes has discouraged the Government from promoting the 
rehabilitation of 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 programs. 
 
Although the Constitution strengthened laws regarding women, including 
equal pay for equal work, the Government has not taken effective action 
to implement its provisions.  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 discriminatory 
laws remain.  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 its provisions for inheritance, land tenancy, and the 
division of family property.  In August the Supreme Court ordered the 
Council of Ministers to enact legislation within a year giving women 
equal rights consistent with the Constitution. 
 
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 to hold property in their own names. 
 
According to the 1991 census, the female literacy rate is 26 percent, 
compared with 57 percent for men.  Human rights groups report that girls 
attend secondary schools at a rate one-half that of boys. 
 
A growing number of women's advocacy groups now take up women's issues, 
and nearly all political parties have their own women's group.  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. 
 
   Children 
 
Poverty severely limits the Government's ability to support the care of 
children.  Primary education for children ages 6-12 is free, but many 
families cannot afford school supplies or clothing.  Schools charge fees 
for further education.  Free health is provided through Government 
clinics, but the clinics are ill equipped and too few in number to meet 
the demand.  Community based health programs assist in the prevention of 
childhood diseases and provide some measure of primary health care and 
family planning services.  Due to poor or non-existent sanitation in 
rural areas, many children are at risk from severe and fatal illnesses. 
 
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, the Government 
has established few such facilities.  The Labor Act of 1992 prohibits 
the employment of minors under 14 years of age, but employers, 
particularly in the informal sector or agriculture, widely ignore the 
law. 
 
Children under the age of 16 work in all sectors of the economy.  
Children's rights groups estimate that up to one-half of children are 
engaged in income generating activities.  As recently as early 1994, the 
carpet industry employed large numbers of children, an estimated 23,000 
or approximately one-third of all workers in the industry.  Due to 
negative publicity in consumer nations, children now account for 
approximately 5 percent of the carpet industry's labor force, about 
6,000 workers (see Section 6.d.).  The Ministry of Labor has undertaken 
no effective initiatives against child labor.   
 
Prostitution and trafficking in young girls remain serious problems (see 
above). 
 
Approximately 75 innocent children under the age of 12 are incarcerated 
with their parents because the Government has not established juvenile 
homes.  A young girl incarcerated with her parent reportedly died in 
prison in January from lack of medical treatment (see Sections 1.a. and 
1.c.). 
 
   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. 
 
   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 Government has outlawed the public 
shunning of "untouchables," an exception was retained for traditional 
practices at Hindu religious sites.  Economic, social, and educational 
advancement tend to be a function of historical patterns, geographic 
location and caste.  Better education and higher levels of prosperity, 
especially in the Kathmandu Valley, are slowly reducing caste 
distinctions and increasing opportunities for lower socioeconomic 
groups.  Better educated, urban-oriented castes (Brahmin, Chhetri, and 
certain elements of the Newar community traditionally dominant in the 
Kathmandu valley) continue to dominate politics and senior 
administrative and military positions and to control a disproportionate 
share 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 the 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 culture. 
 
Section 6   Workers Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution provides for the freedom to establish and join unions 
and associations.  It permits restriction of unions only in cases of 
subversion, sedition, or similar conditions.   
 
Despite the political transformation in 1990, trade unions are still 
developing their administrative structures to organize workers, bargain 
collectively, and conduct worker education programs.  The prior UML 
government "automatically" registered its own affiliated unions but 
interfered in the registration of unions associated with the NCP labor 
organization. 
 
Union participation in the formal sector is significant, but it accounts 
for only a small portion of the labor force.  In 1992 Parliament passed 
the Labor Act and the Trade Union Act, and formulated enabling 
regulations.  However, the Government has not yet fully implemented the 
laws.  The Trade Union Act defines procedures for establishing trade 
unions, associations and federations.  It also protects unions and 
officials from lawsuits arising from any action taken in the discharge 
of union duties, including collective bargaining. 
 
The law permits strikes, except by employees in essential services.  The 
law empowers the Government to halt a strike or suspend a union's 
activities if the union disturbs the peace or if it adversely affects 
the nation's economic interests.  Under the Labor Act, 60 percent of a 
union's membership must vote in favor of a strike in a secret ballot for 
it to be legal. 
 
The Government does not restrict unions from joining international labor 
bodies.  Several trade federations and union organizations maintain a 
variety of international affiliations. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Labor Act provides for collective bargaining, although the 
organizational structures to implement the Act's provisions have not 
been established.  Collective bargaining agreements cover an estimated 
20 percent of wage earners in the organized sector.  However, labor 
remains widely unable to use collective bargaining effectively due to 
inexperience and employer reluctance to bargain. 
 
Other than the Trade Union Act, there are no legal provisions 
prohibiting employers from discriminating against union members or 
organizers. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Constitution prohibits slavery, serfdom, forced labor or traffic in 
human beings in any form.  The Department of Labor enforces laws against 
forced labor in the small formal sector, but remains unable to enforce 
the law outside that sector. 
 
Large numbers of women are still forced to work against their will 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 southern Terai region.  
The Government has not yet enacted legislation or taken other 
significant steps to address the issue. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The Constitution stipulates that children shall not be employed in 
factories, mines, or similar hazardous work.  The law also establishes 
minimum ages for employment of minors at 16 in industry and 14 in 
agriculture.  The Constitution limits children between the ages of 14 
and 16 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 all children are engaged in income generating activities, 
mostly in agriculture.  Children constitute only an estimated 5 percent 
of the employees in the export-oriented carpet industry, down from one-
third in early 1994.  A consortium of carpet factory owners are moving 
to establish a certification system for carpets made without child labor 
(see Section 5).  Few or no children work in the garment industry. 
 
The Ministry 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 use of child labor in carpet factories. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The Labor Act sets a minimum monthly wage of $23 (1,150 rupees) for 
unskilled workers in factories and in the organized labor sector.  This 
wage is sufficient only for the most minimal standard of living.  Wages 
in the unorganized service sector and in agriculture are often as much 
as 50 percent lower. 
 
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, because the Government has not created the necessary regulatory or 
administrative structures to enforce its provisions.  Workers do not 
have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations.  
Although the law authorizes labor officers to order employers to rectify 
unsafe conditions, enforcement of safety standards remains minimal. 

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[end of document]

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