Nepal | October 20, 2020

New law evokes mixed reactions

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A group of six civil society organisations have cautiously welcomed the recent authentication of two ordinances as laws by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari after they were passed by the Council of Ministers.

One of the new legislations has adopted stringent punishment for perpetrators of acid attack and introduced some regulatory measures for sale and distribution of acid and other corrosive materials.

“We take it as a positive sign. The government has paid attention to voices of survivors and others demanding changes in the law in order to better address acid attack related violence,” read a joint press statement issued by Amnesty International Nepal, Forum for Women, Law and Development, JuRI-Nepal, Legal Aid and Consultancy Centre, Burn Violence Survivors Nepal and Women’s Rehabilitation Centre.

“Today is a good day, particularly for the survivors of acid attacks, who have been leading the fight for amendment to the law related to acid attack from the very beginning. Their tireless advocacy led the government to act upon it. Now, we need to ensure that the law is enforced effectively,” said Nirajan Thapalia, Director of Amnesty International Nepal. As per the new law, which comes into effect on Monday, the maximum jail term for perpetrators of acid violence has been increased from eight years to 20 years and fine up to one million rupees.

It is now mandatory for sellers of acid and other corrosive materials to obtain a license and to sell to only adults above the age of 18.

However, the ordinance has failed to address the provision of sentencing based on the body parts that sustained injuries. This showed that the law has failed to consider in depth the experiences of survivors, the organisations warned.

Sabin Shrestha, executive director of Forum for Women, Law and Development said, “It would have been even more meaningful if the ordinance had brought a new law against acid attack related violence rather than just amending the current act.”

“Even though the new ordinance has helped to address the demands of acid attack survivors to a certain extent, the government should also focus on steps to prevent acid attack related crimes,” said Mohan Lal Acharya, executive director of JuRI-Nepal. The new ordinances have also failed to address incidents of burn violence caused using kerosene, petrol and other inflammable substances.

“The law needs to address the issue of burn violence which is a heinous crime just like acid attack. The physical pain, the mental trauma, the treatment process, the impact on self-respect and self-confidence suffered by acid attack and burn violence survivors are similar in nature. Failure of the law to address the issue of burn violence may suggest that there exists discrimination between survivors of similar crimes,” said Pratiksha Giri, executive director of Burn Survivors Nepal.

“The changes brought by the ordinance in respect to widening the scope of punishment for perpetrators, adding provision for treatment of survivors and prioritising such cases in the court are all welcome.

However, unless there are additional provisions that offer financial and social protection to address the psychosocial impact on survivors, those changes will not be effective,” said Lubha Raj Neupane, executive director of WOREC Nepal.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on October 1 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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