HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: The Supreme Court today directed the government to ensure the right to conjugal visits to jailbirds to affirm the inmates’ constitutionally guaranteed fertility and reproductive rights.
A division bench of Justices Bala Ram KC and Girish Chandra Lal issued the verdict.
“Ensure the rights of the conjugal visit in line with Article 20 (2) of the interim constitution that has guaranteed reproductive rights of every person,” said the bench. Observing the overcrowded situation in jails, the bench told the authorities — the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs, Central Jail and Rajbiraj District Jail — to conduct a study on the situation of the inmates and other couples doing time. The bench has also formed a committee comprising Joint Secretary of the Department of Prison Management, police officials and a rights activist to ensure prisoners’ conjugal right and asked the panel to submit a report within six months.
“However, make sure that the couples are legally married based on marriage registration or citizenship certificates before they are allowed to exercise their conjugal right,” the bench directed.
The bench was responding to a PIL filed by some rights activists who had demanded that the government ensure conjugal right to Suraja Marik Dom (37) of Jagatpur of Saptari and his wife Chotani Devi Marik Dom (30), who are doing time in Saptari Jail on the charge of a murder.
INHURED International, an NGO working for human rights, Saptari-based Setu Community Development and Human Rights Forum had jointly filed the PIL asking the government to ensure the inmates’ reproductive rights as guaranteed by the interim constitution and other international instruments.
The petitioner stated that Nepal should comply with its international commitment that the country will ensure a citizen’s social, economic and cultural rights. The international conventions have given recognition to all the couples and individuals to decide the number, spacing and timing of their children freely and responsibly. These conventions have also upheld the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
Although the constitution has guaranteed that every woman shall have the right to reproductive health and other reproductive matters, those couples who are serving time in prisons have not been able to exercise and enjoy their conjugal rights.
Right to a conjugal visit in modern times is also aimed at preserving family bonds and increasing the chances of success for a prisoner’s eventual return to life outside prison.