Women living with disability say they feel left out in the cold for want of legal protection, thereby hindering their empowerment.

Representatives of women with disability say lack of a clear law regarding the rights of physically challenged women and some of the defamatory legal provisions regarding the marital and reproductive rights of disabled women have impeded their progress. Besides, the use of derogatory terms for people with disability in general and women in particular have hurt their dignity, they maintain.

“The Disabled Protection and Welfare Act 1982 has terms like “aandho/aandhi” (blind) and “langaado” (one with deformed leg) which are derogatory and needs to be replaced by respectful terms,” said Tika Dahal, president of Nepal Disabled Women Association.

The latest draft of criminal code says that a man can marry again if his wife cannot give birth to a child or play role in sexual relationship, which, disabled women say, has concerned them. The Interim Constitution has not addressed the issues of women with disability, either in the form of women rights or the rights of the people with disability (PWDs).

The national policy (2008) on the rights of PWDs has a separate provision for the women with disability, but it has not been implemented due to lack of budget, Dahal said. “The women with disability need special legal provision because they are more vulnerable to social stigmas and discrimination compared to other women.”

Nepal is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) since 2008. The Article 6 (Clause 1) of the convention mentions that member parties shall recognise that women and girls with disabilities are subject to multiple discrimination and in this regard shall take measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by them of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Similarly, the clause two mentions that member parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the full development, advancement and empowerment of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights and fundamental freedoms set out in the present Convention.

“The provision in the Muluki Ain which allows a man to marry again if his wife is disabled is already repealed. The Ain itself is going to be obsolete soon,” said advocate Santa Sedai. “Concerned groups are lobbying for the rights of the women with disability in a new constitution which will open doors for other laws for their empowerment.”

Source: The Kathmandu Post – 25.10.2010