Sancharika Samuha with the support of Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) organized an interaction on “Reproductive Health Right of Women in the Draft Constitution” on 15 July 2015. The chief guest of the program was Rt. Hon. Ms Onsari Ghartimagar, Vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly (CA). The program was chaired by Ms Nirmala Sharma, President of Sancharika Samuha, and key speakers included Ms Durga Poudyal, Leader of Rastriya Janamorcha; Mr Giriraj Mani Pokharel, CA Member and UCPN-Maoist Leader; Mr. Chandi Prasad Rai, CPN-UML Leader; Mr Aindra Sundar Nembang, Member of Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and CA Member of CPN-ML, Ms Dina Upadhaya, CA Member and Nepali Congress Leader, Dr Bansidhar Mishra CA Member and CPN-UML Leader, Mr Revati Raman Bhandari, CDC and CA Member CPN-UML, Mr. Laxman Lal Karn, CDC Member and Leader of Nepal Sadbhavana Party, Mr Gagan Thapa, CA Member and Nepali Congress Leader.
Ms Kamla Panthi, Secretary of SAS, emceeing the program said that the draft is out and the government is collecting public opinions. We have taken this opportunity to state our dissatisfaction regarding discriminatory provision which needs to be changed otherwise it is possible that Nepalese women will not be able to enjoy their reproductive health right fully in coming days. Provision in the recently tabled draft of the New Constitution has curtailed the reproductive health rights of women that we already had in the Interim Constitution. So here we are today to hear what our members of Constituent Assembly have to say regarding the Women’s Right to Reproductive Health in Draft Constitution.
Highlight of the Objective
Welcoming all the guests and participants Ms Nirmala Sharma, President of Sancharika Samuha said that the Draft Constitution has talked about ‘safe motherhood and reproductive right’ but failed to address the issues related to reproductive health in a broader perspective. If 51 percent of the total population is asking for equality, the discriminatory provision must be changed. Therefore we have organized this program to collect suggestions and opinions from the representative of different organization. She also informed that various organizations have jointly launched a collective campaign for women friendly constitution and today we all are gathered here to receive the commitment from the members of Constituent Assembly.
Advocate Sabin Shrestha, presenting a paper on ‘Reproductive Health Right of Women in Draft Constitution’ said that the draft of the new constitution has been a huge letdown as far as women’s rights are concerned; he said “So here I am to raise a voice and create awareness on discriminatory provision against women in the draft. Keeping on mind that, if not now, when and if not me who”. Emphasizing on women’s rights, he said that reproductive health rights and women’s right are their own fundamental rights but this new constitution attempts to degrade the rights already given to women by the Interim Constitution. In his presentation, he gave examples of various countries like Columbia, North Korea, South Africa, Ecuador, Serbia who practices reproductive health right but comparatively Nepal is in better position as in Nepal’s Interim Constitution. According to Mr Shrestha Right to Reproduction is a natural phenomenon but right to Reproductive Health is a human right. Reproductive Health alone will not be able to ensure women’s right over her body. He finds the New Constitution very impractical in comparison to the Interim Constitution in the context of Reproductive Health Right of women. Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. Every woman has the right to safe motherhood and reproduction (ICPD 1994). World Health Organization follows the same guidelines while defining reproductive health right of a woman. Killing of a foetus should be punished as crime said Mr. Shrestha. Since the draft constitution is just unveiled and this is only a preliminary draft it could be modified through different processes.
Open Floor Discussion
Dr. Indira Basnet emphasized that Right to Reproductive Health is an umbrella and different components like Menstruation, infertility, uterine prolapse, fistula, cancer falls under it. Reducing high maternal mortality is also a priority agenda. Since we want power based on equality and for that the constitution should ensure equal rights to women and men.
Mr. Prabhakar Shrestha of CREHPA said that the reduction of morbidity and mortality should be the national agenda.
Advocate Ms. Sonali Regmi said that women will be treated like a child bearing machine if women’s reproductive health right is not ensured in the constitution. There is still a misconception about menopause and women are accused of witchcraft which needs to be eradicated.
Remarks by Guest Speakers
Ms Durga Poudel, Member of Constituent Assembly (CA) and Rastriya Janamorcha Leader informed that Nepal legalised abortion in 2002 allowing women to abort pregnancies up to 12 weeks. The Nepal National Abortion Policy 2002 that was bought into practice by the government guarantees access to safe and affordable abortion service to every woman without discrimination. She also showed her commitment to raise issues and ensure women’s right.
Mr Revati Raman Bhandari Member of Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), CA Member and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Leader said that they had no intention to curtail the rights of women in any ways in the draft constitution. The raised issues are very genuine and also many provisions related to women needs amended in the draft. There are some technical errors which will be corrected soon. He assured that the draft will be improved based on inputs to ensure women’s right.
Dr. Bansidhar Mishra, CA Member and CPN-UML leader shared that he has his full support for the raised issue and will ensure that the women reproductive rights are restored in the new constitution.
Mr Gagan Thapa, CA Member and Nepali Congress Leader said that the errors are not intentional but because of ignorance and committed that he would strongly advocate for removing the term killing of the foetus from the draft constitution and showed his commitment toward improvised constitution.
Ms Dina Upadhya, CA Member and Nepali Congress Leader said that since it is a fast track constitution, errors are obvious but hopefully it will be revised. “Let us take it one step at a time or else we end up getting nothing”, she said. “We need assurance from Constitution Drafting Committee members”.
Mr Laxman Lal Karn, Member CDC Member and Nepal Sadbhavana Party Leader also emphasized that fast track or so called super fast tract is the main reason for the errors. He shared that it is difficult to incorporate every single public opinion but, he ensured to lobby for amendment in the draft.
Remarks by Chief Guest
Rt. Hon. Ms Onsari Ghartimagar, Deputy Speaker of CA and CPN-UML Leader on her closing remarks said that every human being has the right to live free but women have been long obliged to live life which is controlled by men. She expressed her commitment to include ‘Reproductive Health Right” in the constitution. She said, “Things will be clearer as we discuss more and I would like to thank Sancharika Samuha for organizing this kind of awareness program. Our attention has been drawn to this issue and we have taken it seriously”.
Concluding the program, Rt. Hon. Onsari Gharti Magar and other lawmakers showed their commitment and ensured that the draft will be revised based on suggestions.
The news on the interaction was been widely covered by the national television such as Himalayan TV, Mountain TV, News24, NTV, Kantipur TV, Avenues TV, Arniko TV, Sagarmatha TV, ABC, Yes TV, Today TV and Makalu TV of Biratnagar has also covered the news of interaction. Likewise the radio stations namely; Kantipur FM, Radio Nepal, Mirmire, Star FM, INSEC, Radio Sagarmatha and Image FM have covered the news. The national print media have also covered the news, the media clippings have been attached herewith and below are the links to online media coverage.