Nepalis protest 'ridiculous' proposed ban on women travelling abroad
Activists warn new anti-trafficking law requiring permission from families to travel is evidence of ‘deep-rooted patriarchal mindset’
A proposed law in Nepal that would ban women from travelling abroad without permission from their families and local government officials has been called unconstitutional and “ridiculous”. The proposals, introduced by the Department of Immigration last week in an attempt to prevent women being trafficked, would require all women under 40 to seek permission before they visit Africa or the Middle East for the first time.
Following criticism, the department said the law applied only to “vulnerable” women and stressed it had yet to be finalised.
Ila Sharma, a former election commissioner of Nepal, said: “It’s preposterous the way educated bureaucracy seems to be objectifying women. Clearly, they do not see women as fully fledged adults. “Instead of empowering and building the capacity of women, as well as the rest of the emigrant labour workforce, they are being regressive, unconstitutional, not to say ridiculous.”
Nepal’s Human Rights Commission estimated that about 35,000 people, including 15,000 women and 5,000 girls, were victims of trafficking in 2018. Activists pointed out that it is not just women who are trafficked, so immigration lawmakers should consider women and men in any proposed legal changes. There have been several attempts over the past decades to combat exploitation through travel restrictions. The latest was in 2017 when the government banned Nepali citizens from working in the Gulf as domestic workers, a move that targeted women. Activists have long complained that banning women from travelling doesn’t work and infringes their rights.