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Re "one hour for murder - 20 years for an abortion" in Nepal

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  • Lynette Dumble
    Dear friends of GSN, Warning - a most disturbing report via the Bol! List - any comment, suggestions, ideas welcomed. With thanks etc., Lynette. ... Dear Rajib
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 1999
      Dear friends of GSN,

      Warning - a most disturbing report via the Bol! List - any comment, suggestions, ideas welcomed.

      With thanks etc., Lynette.


      >Date: Sat, 02 Jan 1999 04:03:55 +1100

      >To: sushma@...

      >From: Lynette Dumble <<l.dumble@...>

      >Subject: Questions, questions ... re "one hour for murder - 20 years for an abortion"

      Dear Rajib

      Your message, "One hour for murder - 20 years for an abortion", reminds me somewhat of a poster I used to read at the entrance to the underground rail when I worked at the University of Illinois in Chicago about 10 years back - "Men get 6 months for rape, women get life" - only this case, and probably countless others in Nepal, is a trillion times more outrageous!!

      What sort of justice is prevailing in Nepal that a 14 year old child can be jailed for 20 years for terminating a rape-related pregnancy? What sort of penal system imprisons a child for 20 years for any crime? What sort of police authority lets a child rapist off scot free?

      Has anyone approached Amnesty International, the UNHRC, Human Rights Watch, and/or given some thought to an international campaign to free Min Min Lama? [I'd be all for a separate campaign to jail her rapist instead!!].

      In sisterhood, and looking forward to some answers, Lynette.


      Return-Path: <<owner-bol@...>

      Date: Fri, 01 Jan 1999 19:31:05 +0530

      From: sushma@...

      Subject: Bol!: In Nepal, one hour for murder - 20 years for an abortion

      Sender: owner-bol@...

      To: bol@...

      Reply-to: sushma@...

      Delivered-to: <<bol@...>


      Thought this may be useful to the list.





      One hour for murder - 20 years for an abortion

      by Uma Ram Nath


      Min Min Lama, aged 14, was raped by her sister-in-law's

      brother. When Min Min later had an abortion, the family reported the

      event. Min Min was sentenced to 20 years jailbecause having an abortion

      in Nepal is illegal. The rapist was never convicted. Nepal is one of a

      handful of countries in the world which imprisons women for having an


      However, there are more than 50 countries (see list below)*

      which have laws which reflect varying degrees of injustice like that in

      Nepal. Campaigners in Nepal are lobbying for changes in the law on

      abortion but the draft bill has been linked, through the legislative

      process, to a bill promoting property rights for women and this has made

      it even more difficult to put the abortion law reform through


      The primitive injustice of the Nepalese situation was one of the issues

      raised by the Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) at the recent

      140-country meeting of the International Planned Parenthood Federation

      (IPPF) in Prague. They believe that bringing the issue to international

      attention will move the Nepalese government speedily to reform the law.

      Poland is another country, whose recent criminalisation of the abortion

      law (for both medical practitioner and the woman), and the ending of

      state provided family planning services under the national health

      service, was discussed at the IPPF world assembly. Polish family

      planning organisations are using UN charter obligations, and looking at

      EU accession requirements, to pressure the government to restore women's

      rights and subsidised family planning. Since these were restricted there

      has been a significant rise in teenage pregnancies and dangerous

      backstreet abortions. The issue is not just one of reproductive rights,

      but of fundamental human rights, says the FPAN, which has made a video

      about the issue in Nepal with the help of South Asia Regional Office of

      the IPPF.

      Nepalese women, who are charged with abortion, can be sentenced up to 20

      years in jail, while men who commit murder, on average serve only 10

      years. If a woman kills the man who raped her, within one hour of the

      assault, she receives legal immunity. But she goes to jail if she

      terminates a pregnancy resulting from the same attack. Campaigners do

      not have access to the full official figures but say that hundreds of

      Nepalese women have served jail sentences for having had an abortion.

      FPAN adds that in Nepalese law, abortion is classed as infanticide

      and, as such, falls under the category of homicide). Two thirds of women

      inmates are in prison because they have had an abortion, FPAN says.

      Abortion is prohibited under any circumstances whatsoever, including on

      grounds of rape and incest and endangerment of the life of the other.

      Globally, the termination of pregnancy remains a choice for many women

      in rich and poor societies. Abortion was legalised in the UK in 1967,

      and it is estimated that, in the late 90s, one in four women in the UK

      will have an abortion.

      In India abortion was made legal in 1971. In India the underlying

      problem is of female feticide - couples preferring to have a male child.

      The Nepalese anti-abortion law affects the most vulnerable women and

      they are generally illiterate and poor, says Indira Rana, a volunteer

      working with the Prison Assistance Mission (PAM). And, when they finally

      get out of jail, they are ostracised by the family and the community.

      Unable to earn a living, many are forced into prostitution, and so go on

      to commit another crime under Nepalese law. Apart from the women in

      jail, thousands of more Nepalese women are at risk and often die because

      they have to resort to extremely dangerous back-street methods. Nepal

      not only has the highest snow peaks in the world, it is in the

      unenviable position of having one of the highest rates of maternal


      The worldwide proportion of deaths caused by unsafe abortions stands at

      13%. In Nepal this has been estimated to be up to 50%. Part of the

      reason for this frighteningly high figure is that family planning

      services in Nepal, with people often living in remote and roadless

      areas, are not widespread, says Director General of FPAN, Dr

      Yagya Bahadur Karki. Ironically there are safe, hygienic abortion

      services, particularly in the capital, Kathmandu, but they are illegal.

      They are not widely-known, especially for folk from rural areas.

      Abortions are also extremely expensive in one of the poorest countries

      in the world -- from US$60 to US$100 for married women, and four times

      that sum for unmarried women. The annual per capita income in Nepal is

      US$200. Most clandestine abortion procedures are dangerous, as village

      women often have to rely on the unsafe methods of untrained, traditional

      birth attendants.

      These have long-term impact on the health and fertility of women.

      Gynaecologist Dr Sanu Dali says she sees patients, for example, who have

      inserted a bag containing ghee (clarified butter), turmeric and cow dung

      into the uterus. A 35-month study in a government maternity hospital,

      showed that of the 9,141 gynaecological cases admitted, nearly 50% were

      due to complications from abortions. Studies conducted in three district

      level hospitals across the country arrived at a similar percentage.

      Legalising abortion would mean giving women the right to choose the

      number of children they wish to have, says Dr Karki. 'We do not promote

      abortion as a method of family planning. But right now we want those who

      choose to an abortion - to the extent possible - to have a safe

      abortion'. In 1996, the President of FPAN, Mr Sunil Kumar Bhandari,

      registered a Private Bill in the parliament advocating the reform of

      abortion legislation, permitting it under certain conditions, and

      ensuring greater access to safe abortion services.

      Unfortunately the Bill has languished in Parliament for more than two

      years. The draft bill proposes that abortions can be carried out by

      legally-registered physicians in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and

      thereafter in certain situations, such as rape, incest, life-threatening

      situations and where the foetus is diagnosed as being severely


      There is a great amount of public support for the proposed Bill, and

      according to a recent private poll conducted by FPAN), 74% of

      parliamentarians are in favour of legalising abortion. However,

      there are obstacles. Some conservative Hindu religious groups, in a

      country where the King is honoured as a divine being, oppose the Bill.

      Although they are a small minority, their influence is greater than

      their numbers.

      Women's campaigners say that many men see the bill as a threat - if

      women are treated equally it will be a big challenge to them. Despite

      the FPAN private poll result among MPs, 95 % of parliamentarians are

      male. Activists say opponents have also projected the law reform as a

      'Dollar Bill', a foreign import that will destroy Nepalese culture.

      There are other misconceptions being put about. One is that the number

      of abortions will increase. In fact the abortion rate in Nepal is

      already among the highest in South Asia. In contrast, in India, where

      abortion has been legal since 1971, the estimated abortion rate is 25%

      lower. Experience around the world has shown that rates will only fall

      when family planning services become widespread and modern methods are

      used effectively. Others believe that offering safe abortions through

      government health facilities will be prohibitively expensive. They do

      not take into account the enormous savings through a reduction in

      treating the aftermath of unsafe abortions.

      Inequalities in health and reproductive rights persist around the

      world, not only in Nepal. A report from the Panos Institute in London,

      states that 25% of the world's population lives in the countries listed

      below with the most restrictive abortion laws generally banning

      abortion entirely, or criminalising it unless it is to save the life of

      the woman. Campaigners in Nepal maintain that a properly performed

      abortion is a woman's safety net, and one of the most important

      reproductive rights of all. ends

      Dr. Lynette J. Dumble,

      Co-ordinator, Global Sisterhood Network

      Senior Research Fellow,

      History and Philosophy of Science,

      University of Melbourne,

      Parkville, Vic., 3052, AUSTRALIA.

      Tel: 61-3-9344-6556

      Fax: 61-3-9344-7959

      email: l.dumble@...



      http://home.vicnet.net.au/~globalsn/ </color>[under construction]
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