Asia Foundation’s Women’s Rights Expert Kirti Thapa on Gender-Based Violence in Nepal
April 25, 2012
Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Kathmandu-based NGO Women LEAD with The Asia Foundation’s policy officer on gender-based violence, Kirti Thapa.
What motivated you to enter the field of women’s rights?
As a woman, working for women’s rights has always interested me. Both of my parents are lawyers and involved with nonprofits so we always end up talk about human rights issues at family gatherings. There was never a specific incident, but just hearing about gender-based violence in the news everyday and living in a patriarchal society was enough to make me decide to work on women’s rights in Nepal.
While I was studying law, I filed a writ petition to the Supreme Court in 2006 against the traditional practice of kamalari (a form of modern-day slavery where girls become indentured domestic servants). Because of the ruling, there is more awareness, but the practice of kamalari is still happening illegally all the time rather than the previous assigned “auspicious” day. Poverty is the driving practice of kamalari. Now there’s even a government fund for the rehabilitation of rescued kamalaris, but it has not being implemented. Politics affects everything – the Trust Committee heading up the implementation of the law was never formed within the prescribed time frame, so the fund was frozen.
While I was recently interviewing freed kamalaris in the Terai, one of them told me, “Sometimes I’m happy to be a kamalari since my parents can’t fund my education, and my [landowner's] ability to take care of me economically is higher than my parents’ ability.” But there are many horror stories of sexual abuse and trafficking of kamalaris.
Who are your role models?
My family, and specifically my parents, inspired me initially; Hillary Clinton as well. For young women in Nepal, Sapana Pradhan Malla [member of the Nepalese Constituent Assembly] is an excellent role model; I’ve been working closely with her in the past four months and I’m amazed by her work.
Can you talk a bit more about your position as gender-based violence policy officer in the office of the prime minister?
After then-prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal declared 2010 as the year to end Violence Against Women and created the National Action Plan on Gender Equality, he established a Gender-Based Violence Unit to handle complaints created out of the action plan. I work as the GBV Unit’s legal council, working within their legal mandate to coordinate with local stakeholders and ensure that laws are properly implemented by working with any complaints forwarded to us by local police stations, called into our
hotline, or found in newspapers. We also monitor all the districts of Nepal and visit women’s cells.
Read the full interview on Women LEAD’s blog.
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