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Should the government decide for us?

Reaction to a new rule requiring women under 40 to take approval from family and local ward to travel abroad.

2021 Feb 12, 18:00, Kathmandu
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Rijal/ FB

A new rule was introduced recently requiring women under 40 to take approval from their family and the local ward office to travel abroad, which received criticism from various quarters.  

However, the Department of Immigration today clarified that the restriction was only for women under 40 who are travelling to high-risk destinations (Gulf and Africa) and for those who do not have any idea about the place they are travelling to. The department also stated that it was a proposal forwarded to the Council of Ministers and no decision has been made yet regarding the issue. It also mentioned that the proposal was made to counter the increasing issue of human trafficking and abuse. 

According to the International Labour Organisation, approximately 5.7 million or 80.8% of workers in Nepal have informal jobs and there are nearly 1.4 million home-based workers – mostly all women – producing goods for export. Along with people employed in the formal sector, the home-based workers have also been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown and have lost their source of livelihood.

Since businesses will take time to pick up pace in Nepal many have plans to go abroad for employment. And it is these very people for whom the government says it has proposed the law who stand to suffer as such restrictions will compel them to take even more dangerous routes to travel abroad for work. The first priority for the workers is to have bread on the table and placing curbs will impel them to take desperate measures. 

What also needs to be considered is, ‘are such laws restricting the freedom of women!’

“Such proposals and laws demonstrate the narrow-minded thinking of those in authority and they do not realise that it is an infringement on a woman’s fundamental rights,” says clinical psychologist Hasana Shrestha of Samantha Psychosocial Care. She adds that such decisions show that concerned people do not have the ability to deal with problems in a constructive manner. 

“As per law, a person is considered an adult once they are 18 years old, so why should others be making decisions for adults, more so when it affects their basic rights,” Shrestha states. “The government is trying to portray that it is trying to protect the people but it should look into other ways instead of just bringing laws that affect the rights of the common people,” she adds. 

Meanwhile, Sameer Dhingra, a 24-year-old from Boudha in Kathmandu, says that such laws demonstrate the patriarchal attitude of our people. “I feel we have been ingrained with this notion from childhood that men are more superior. For instance, even the scriptures that we follow mostly glorify males,” he adds. 

Similarly, Mira Sharma, a 29-year-old female from Tinchuli, mentioned that when she first heard about the proposal she felt as though she was in Saudi Arabia. “What next? Will I be required to wear a headscarf when I go out?” she ruminates.

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