Rai said Nepal’s citizenship act is being amended to include a third gender, ‘Other’, and that people claiming it will not have to produce medical evidence of a change in gender. He added: “I would emphasise that we need to change our value set, our perception and our mindset, and the Government of Nepal will do more in promoting rights and protecting the rights of the LGBTIQ community.”
According to a scorecard produced by ISHR, Nepal got 9/18 human rights benchmarks while its closest competitor, Uzbekistan, reached 6/18.
Nepal loses points is in its dealings with ‘special procedures’, human rights experts devoted to specific issues, like torture or child rights. According to the scorecard, Nepal has not:
– issued a standing invitation to special procedures to visit the country
– responded positively to country visit requests (with fewer than five such requests outstanding)
– sent a substantive reply to more than 80% of communications received from special procedures
Earlier this year, ISHR New York Director Eleanor Openshaw told Nepali Times that cooperating with the experts is a sign that a country is serious about improving human rights, both at home and globally. “If you don’t cooperate that is unacceptable,” she said.
This week, Openshaw added: “Nepal faces influential challengers. However, it is a current member of the Council seeking a second term. When first elected in 2017, Nepal received the highest number of votes for regional candidates. I would be surprised if Nepal were not re-elected.”
None of the western governments known to take an interest in human rights in Nepal contacted by Nepali Times earlier this year would reveal if they planned to support the government’s candidacy. However, it is rumoured that voting decisions are based on broader geo-political interests of UN member states, and the country groupings that they belong to.
Along with the scorecard, ISHR worked with Nepal’s Advocacy Forum, Blue Diamond Society and Collective Campaign for Peace to develop recommendations for Nepal. They include:
– Protecting the constitutional right of freedom of expression, and allow journalists to carry out their work freely and independently.
– Ensure human rights violations are investigated, including ensuring police register First Information Reports on cases of violations, victims are provided with remedies and perpetrators are held accountable.
– End gender-based violence and caste-based discrimination, and ensure effective implementation of the rights of women, indigenous peoples, Dalits, Muslims, Madheshi and sexual minorities as guaranteed in the Constitution.
– End excessive use of force by the police to impose the lockdown, physically assaulting people coming out of their home for an essential purpose such as health workers.
– Do not sideline the transitional justice process under the guise of COVID-19 and amend the Enforced Disappearance Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, as required by the 2015 ruling of the Supreme Court and in line with international legal standards.
Fifteen of the HRC’s 47 seats are up for election next month, while just 16 candidates are in the mix. Only the Asia-Pacific region will see a competitive election — all other candidates will automatically get a place at the HRC table.
According to the UN General Assembly, when they are electing HRC members UN member states should take into account how candidates have contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights.
In June, Nepal released the pledges and commitments it promises to fulfil if elected. They include:
– Make every possible effort in addressing, through transitional justice mechanisms, the cases related to the violation of human rights during the conflict period
– Ensure the independence of the judiciary for the protection of human rights
– Foster the growth and development of a free media
– Continue to maintain a conducive environment for the operation of human rights defenders and civil society organisations
– Strengthen the National Human Rights Commission in the protection and promotion of human rights
– Fully enable all the constitutional commissions to fulfill their mandates effectively towards ending discrimination and creating an inclusive, just and prosperous Nepali society.
On her organisation’s website, Salma El Hosseiny, ISHR’s Human Rights Council Advocate, advises, ‘Voting states should urge all of the candidates states to commit to implementing these concrete measures, and to ensure meaningful and broad consultation with independent civil society in the process.’