Gender Equality in Nepal
Flag of Nepal
|Population (in Mil.)||30.49|
|Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB)||18.88|
|Sex Ratio (m/f)||0.96|
|Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)||1.021|
|Income Ratio (f/m)||0.61|
|Literacy Ratio (f/m)||0.62|
|Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m)||0.41|
|Women in Parliament (in %)||5.9|
|Human Development Index||157/169|
|Social Institutions and Gender Index||36/86|
|Gender Inequality Index||110/138|
|Gender Equity Index||121/157|
|Women’s Economic Opportunity Index||- /113|
|Global Gender Gap Index||115/134|
|More information on variables|
The Nepalese constitution of 1990 guarantees all citizens basic human rights and fundamental freedom, but statutory laws that still discriminate against women can be found in the area of property rights and family law. The social status of women and their relative equality with men varies between different ethnic groups. Yet, in most communities, women’s position is governed by patriarchal traditions and conventional assumptions of women’s role in society are slow to change. A woman’s place is generally in the home where her main duties include childrearing and household related chores. Women’s access to education is limited and they have very few opportunities to engage in activities that would provide them with a greater degree of economic freedom. Their employment outside of the home is often tied to the agricultural sector or the textile and weaving industries. Over 80 percent of the population is Hindu and close to 11 percent is Buddhist.
Legally, women and men have the right to freely choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent. Following Hindu traditions, however, marriages are often considered social contracts between families, rather than between the bride and groom themselves. With parental consent, the legal age of marriage is 16 years for women and 18 years for men. Without consent women need to be 18 and men 21. Nevertheless, early marriages are common practice and girls are encouraged by their parents to marry in their early teens or even earlier. An estimated 40 percent of girls between 15 and 19 years of age is or have been married, Divorced or Widowed (UN, 2004) and in 2001, approximately 7 percent of girls under the age of 10 years were married (UNICEF, 2001).
Polygamy is illegal in Nepal, but the law does not invalidate the second marriage itself. Polygamists are subject to two months’ imprisonment and a fine but, after that time, they may keep the second marriage as a recognized one. According to a DHS survey undertaken in 2001, an estimated 4.4 percent of women were living in polygonous marriages.
A woman’s right to Inheritance depends to a large extent on her marital status. Recent legal amendments have improved women’s inheritance rights and daughters, widows and divorced women are now to be accepted as rightful inheritors. Still, many discriminatory provisions remain. For example, daughters can only inherit tenancy rights of their father or mother once they have reached the age of 35, and then only if they are unmarried.
Female genital mutilation is not a general practice in Nepal.
Violence against women is a serious problem and women’s rights are poorly enforced. Domestic violence is common and the custom of dowry is the cause of many incidents. Recently, free legal aid following domestic violence has been made available.
The occurrence of Missing women (including female infants and children) is widespread in most South Asian countries. Reasons for this include son preference and sex-selective abortions, relative neglect of girls compared to boys in early childhood and high maternal mortality ratios. While Nepal may have less of a problem than neighbouring counties, such as India and Bangladesh, its population sex ratio remains high at 1.06. Further, Nepal is one of the few countries in the world where women’s life expectancy at birth is lower than that of men.
Women’s right to move freely varies between different groups and communities. Women belonging to the Indo-Aryan group often face restrictions on their movements outside of the household, while women belonging to the Tibeto-Burman group enjoy a relative high degree of freedom.
The freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution and there are no legal restrictions on women’s Freedom of dress. Muslims make up 4 percent of Nepal’s population and traditions of purdah are observed in some conservative Indo-Aryan communities, requiring women to cover their at least their hair.
Women make up more than 65 percent of the labour force employed in agriculture, but the majority of them are unpaid family workers. As such, their Access to land is limited and they account for only 6 percent of total landowners with a combined share of 4 percent of arable land (CEDAW, 2003).
Women have the legal capacity to take bank loans and other forms of financial credit. The Ministry of Local Development and the Ministry of Agriculture conduct loan programs targeted at women. The Contract Act of 2000 also allows women to enter into financial contracts of any form and to establish private firms or companies.
Recent amendments to the Country Code have improved women’s access to property. An unmarried daughter now has the right to ancestral property irrespective of age, while previous conditions required her to be above the age of 35. Women’s independent use of their property is still restricted, however, and they are often required to receive permission from a male relative before disposing of any immovable property (CEDAW, 1998).
- CEDAW (1998), Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, initial report of States parties, Nepal, CEDAW/C/NPL/1.
- CEDAW (2003), Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, combined second and third periodic report of States parties, Nepal, CEDAW/C/NPL/2-3.
- Klasen, K. and C. Wink (2003), “Missing Women”: Revisiting the Debate, Feminist Economics 1/2003, Volume 9, Issue 2-3.
- Laligurans Women Skill Development Centre, www.laliguranswomenskill.org.np.
- OECD (2006), The Gender, Institutions and Development Database, www.oecd.org/dev/gender/gid.
- UNICEF (2005), Early Marriage - A Harmful Traditional Practice, A Statistical Exploration (original data from DHS).
- UNICEF (2001), Early Marriage – Child Spouses, Innocenti Digest, No. 7, March 2001.
- United Nations (2006), In-depth study on all forms of violence against women, Report of the Secretary-General, A/61/122/Add.1.
- United Nations (2004), Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Fertility Report, New York.
The Women, Business and the Law
Where are laws equal for men and women?
The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.
For detailed information on Nepal, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Nepal page.
The FAO Gender and Landrights Database
The FAO Gender and Landrights Database contains country level information on social, economic, political and cultural issues related to the gender inequalities embedded in those rights. Disparity on land access is one of the major causes for social and gender inequalities in rural areas, and it jeopardizes, as a consequence, rural food security as well as the wellbeing of individuals and families.
The Database offers information on the 6 following Categories:
- National legal frame
- International treaties and conventions
- Customary law
- Land tenure and related Institutions
- Civil society organizations
- Selected Land Related Statistics
- Addressing social exclusion in Nepal (2009 OECD Development Co-operation Report)
- Support to the Safe Motherhood Programme in Nepal (The original version of this case study was used to demonstrate ownership in the report “Key messages and case studies for the HLF-3 roundtables from the workshop on “Strengthening the development results and impacts of the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness through work on gender equality, social exclusion and human rights”, London, 12-13 March 2008”. It was prepared by the DAC GOVNET’s human rights task team).