Protests over teenager’s rape-murder, travel permit law rock Nepal

Kathmandu, Feb 12 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of protesters, most of them women, on Friday took to the streets of Kathmandu to protest the recent rape and murder of an adolescent girl alongside demonstrations against a bill that seeks to make it obligatory for Nepali women under the age of 40 to produce special permits for traveling abroad.

This is the second consecutive day of protests in Nepal even as the Himalayan country has witnessed increasing unrest in recent days.

“This is the fight against violence on women and the government’s exploitation of Nepali women working abroad by imposing one misguided rule after another, restricting their right to travel and earn a living,” Mohna Ansari, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission and one of the leaders at the rally, told EFE.

People have taken to the streets demanding justice for 17-year-old Bhagirathi Bhatta, whose corpse was discovered in the western district of Baitadi last week.

Police reported this week that according to the autopsy, the teenager was raped before being murdered.

Her family has expressed fears that the case might meet the same fate as that of Nirmala Pant, 13, who was raped and murdered in 2018 in a case that remains unsolved even now.

“Friday’s protest was also against the government’s plan to amend the immigration rules that make it difficult for women under 40 to travel abroad on visit visas on their own,” said Ansari.

According to the proposal, women under 40 traveling abroad on their own would have to furnish a letter of approval from their local district authorities as well as a letter of consent from their family.

Moreover, they would also need to possess insurance coverage worth 1.5 million rupees ($12,800) and carry cash equivalent to $1,000 for travel expenses.

Ansari said the provision will “curtail women’s right to travel freely.”

Nonprofit Human Rights Watch has also criticized the measure, saying that although abuse of Nepali migrant laborers overseas is a serious problem, the policy would only worsen things.

“Instead of denying a woman the 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,” HRW said in a statement.

The NGO added that the government should include women while making the norms instead of treating them like “children and second-class citizens.”

However, the government has asserted that it was only trying to prevent the exploitation of women in some countries in the Middle East and Africa, and not in other nations with better safeguards.

“We are not trying to restrict the movement of women in European countries, the United States, Australia, Canada and other countries because these countries care the most about human rights,” immigration department spokesperson Tek Narayan Paudel told EFE on Thursday.

Nearly 1.5 million Nepalis are vulnerable to different kinds of human trafficking according to the 2018-19 annual report on human trafficking prepared by the National Human Rights Commission. Almost 35,000 Nepali citizens were trafficked during this period. EFE


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