23 April 2014
Nepal, 23 April 2014 – In Nepal, when a man abandons his wife and family it is common for the woman to be left in the lurch as destitutes. Women are systematically denied their rights under the law especially property rights, inheritance and alimony. Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), in partnership with local bar associations, plays a crucial role in not only empowering women’s awareness of the law to claim their rights but also accompanying them through the legal processes.
In the Nepalese society, when a woman gets married, she is expected to renounce her own family and adopt her husband’s family. She is very dependent on this new family who becomes her sole source of livelihood, social security and social status.
Malati Rajbanshi Lama (see photo) lives in a remote village, some 100 km from the capital city of Katmandu. “After my husband left me, I never received any financial support from him either for me or for my children. My in-laws refuse to recognize my marriage and deny access to my house”, she recounts. “My children used to go to school but now they cannot do so as education is very expensive”.
With the intervention of a local bar unit supported by ASF, Malati became aware about her rights and legal procedures. In the nearest legal aid clinic, she received legal counseling and felt empowered to file a case in the local court.
Malati now lives in a government safe house with her three children and gets daily wages just enough to support her family. Her case has been filled for partition of property, alimony and marital status recognition which, in Nepal, is important for registration and citizenship rights for Malati and her children. She now awaits the court decision which should improve her living conditions: “We expect a decision from the Court in the next five months. It is long but my lawyers are positive”.
ASF’s legal awareness activities such as mobile clinics to village development communities and radio sensitisation programs aim at providing information about the law and the legal services available for people in vulnerable situations, like Malati.
Other ASF objectives include increasing the demand for legal services offered by the Districts Bar Units, strengthening the capacities of Bar Units and individual lawyers to assisting vulnerable and marginalized people.
Over one million people have been reached through legal awareness program like radio programs, school programs and mobile clinics, in five districts in the country. 1,277 people directly benefited from legal advice, legal assistance and, where applicable, representation in court.
ASF has worked in close partnership with the Nepal Bar Association and two other organisations (*). The project is financed by the Belgian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
(*) The PPR (Forum for Protection of People’s Right) and the LACC (Legal Aid & Consultancy Center)