There has been an uproar of protest in Nepal following the government’s proposal to ban women from travelling abroad. This proposal would require Nepali women under 40 to have consent from their families and government officials before travelling to Africa or the Middle East. Proposed by the Department of Immigration, the ban was created in an attempt to prevent the trafficking of women in Nepal.
Executive director of Women’s Lead Nepal, Hima Bista, spoke out against the proposal, “What is extremely dangerous is the thought process behind it. The very fact that a policymaker is thinking about drafting this law restricting the movement of adult girls and women tells us how deep-rooted the patriarchal mindset is.”
In 2019, a report by the Nepal Human Rights Commission showed that 1.5 million people were at risk of being trafficked. An estimated 38,000 people were trafficked in Nepal in 2018, according to Nepal’s Human Right Commission. Of this figure, 15,000 were women and 5,000 were girls.
“There were also an estimated 18,000 male victims of trafficking that year, hence why activists are of the belief that the proposed ban on women travelling abroad is not the approach that should be taken to solve this issue.”
International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have spoken out, explaining that the proposal is not only oppressive and sexist, but may go on to further endanger women. Sonal Mehta, IPPF South Asia Regional Office Director says, “The Government of Nepal has clarified that this proposed rule is an attempt to curb trafficking of young girls and women. On the contrary, this rule inflicts violence by restricting movement and encouraging control over women. It reinforces regressive gender norms of approval and guardianship. I wish I was in Nepal to join the outrage of women and girls there, and we stand in solidarity with them.”
Surakshya Giri, board member of IPPF also stated, “These restrictions are against Nepal’s commitments under the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).” Highlighting the many layers of injustice to the proposed ban on women requiring consent to travel, Former commissioner of the Nepal Human Rights Commission, Mohna Ansari, also pointed out the CEDAW violation, furthering the argument against the ban by posing the question, “If women aren’t protected inside the country, how can they be safe abroad?”
This proposal is not the first of its kind, following an earlier ban on Nepali citizens working as domestic workers in the Gulf. This, however, only stands to demonstrate that these bans do not stop women from travelling to these countries, it just forces them to take illegal routes to their destinations. Human rights activists are calling for the government to take measures to warn the population on the dangers of human trafficking, instead of enforcing restrictions that may cause more harm than good.