Govt getting ready to ratify Palermo Protocol

Published On: May 15, 2019 10:15 AM NPT By: Sonam Lama

KATHMANDU, May 15: The Human Trafficking Control Section at the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens (MoWCSC) is planning to work on the concluding observations made in November 2018 by the UN CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women) Committee on Nepal's sixth periodic report.

Along with other participating countries, Nepal presented its periodic report at the 71st session of CEDAW held in Geneva, Switzerland in October last year. The Shadow Report Preparation Committee (SRPC), a coalition of 93 civil society organizations, presented the report on which the CEDAW committee released its concluding observations on core issues concerning women rights relating to citizenship, education, employment, justice, health, trafficking, etc.

Of the CEDAW committee's observations on different issues of women rights, one focuses on the issue of human trafficking. As per the sixth periodic report, the committee has outlined six recommendations to Nepal government. The committee recommended lifting the ban imposed on women workers, adopting standard operation to victim's early identification, adopting the bills on witness and victims' protection, amending Human Trafficking and Transportation Control (HTTC) Act and ratifying the Palermo Protocol, investigating the complicity of state officials in trafficking and allocating adequate resources to rehabilitation centers.

According to executive director at Alliance against Trafficking in Women and Children in Nepal (AATWIN), Benu Maya Gurung, criminal activities related to human trafficking indicate the transportation of persons through exploitation and any form of threat and coercion included. Elaborating on the provided recommendations, she emphasized the country's need to amend the HTTC Act and ratify the Palermo Protocol. “There are several acts that the country has ratified which may not hold much significance to the country's present state. However, with the country vehemently facing cases of trafficking, the Palermo Protocol is an urging need. There could be a proper observation and investigation of each case of trafficking if the country ratifies it,” said Gurung.

“The Foreign Employment Act defines  18 years of age for employment. However, as per the country's law, women  under 24 are not allowed as a domestic worker in foreign countries  which increases the risk of trafficking of women as they are likely to  work illegally in foreign countries,” asserted Gurung. Out of 193 countries, 173 have so far ratified the protocol. On this note, Sabin Shrestha, executive director at Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), stressed the importance of the ratification of the protocol to mitigate the activities relating to the crime. “Many forms of trafficking in the name of foreign employment are increasing. The existing law on trafficking is conventional and rigid, and can barely cover all forms of criminal activities related to trafficking. 

“The victims being trafficked to other countries are punishable by the country's law. However, there is no such provision in the case of persons being trafficked to Nepal. Therefore, ratifying the protocol means making the definition of trafficking comprehensive and it could provide the country with additional protection mechanisms,” added Shrestha. 

Many a times, justice in cases of trafficking is delayed or denied as the victims and witnesses get hostile which means they withdraw the court cases due to threat, coercion or undue influence. “The victims are likely to withdraw the case when they are alone or with families that are less likely to support. There is high possibility of the cases filed at court when they are associated with organizations that fight the cases of human trafficking,” said Uma Tamang, legal officer at Maiti Nepal.

After the UN CEDAW Committee provided its concluding observations, the government is liable to follow up with the recommendations and work accordingly. The further process includes submitting the Universal Periodic Report (UPR) which comprises the action plans to be prepared by the government within a year of receiving the recommendations. The country's performance will be evaluated at the next CEDAW session which takes place every four years. 

“The works for the submission of universal periodic report is underway. We are also coordinating with the home ministry to pass the bills in order to ratify the Palermo Protocol. It is only after the ratification that the act shall be introduced,” said Krishna Prasad Bhusal, under secretary at the Human Trafficking Control Section at the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen. 

“The rehabilitation centers are deprived of budget with the government entering the federal structure. The budget shall be provided to 10 government-run rehabilitation centers. We are planning to prepare a victim identification guideline by the end of June,” added Bhusal.

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