Much public outrage was witnessed on Wednesday after the news of a possible regulation, which would restrict women under the age of 40 in Nepal from travelling freely, came to fore.

It was revealed that the Department of Immigration (DoI) had proposed a contentious law amendment under which women under 40 would require family's consent in addition to respective ward office's approval to travel abroad independently.

The Immigration Department was said to have proposed to the Home Ministry to amend an existing provision of the Immigration Procedure 2065 regarding visit-visa. Likewise, it was said that the Department was introducing the aforementioned regressive regulation to counter the issues relating to increased human trafficking, extortion, and lack of various kinds of support in foreign lands.

In the same manner, it was noted that women will also require an accidental insurance of up to Rs 1.5 million, to travel abroad.

According to information officer at the Department, Tek Narayan Poudel, women in the aforementioned age-group will have to receive consent from their families as well as ward offices if they wish to travel alone, adding that many women "travel without the approval of their families", and therefore, to regulate that family's permission has been sought. This statement, in itself, is enough to raise a question into the intentions of a government agency that fundamentally is required to be free of all biases.

However, women would be exempt from all such prerequisites and can "freely travel" to foreign countries with family members or their husbands.

Naturally, even the idea of such a provision, such a rule, is preposterous in today's time and age. It would take us generations back into the past when women were fighting to give us the privilege or at least a semblance of equality today. At a time when women have proved in every way possible, that they are equal to men, putting into motion such a rule, would tell us that our society is still deeply rooted in patriarchy.

People from various walks of life came forth to express their discontent and shock regarding even the prospect of such a regulation.

In response, the Department of Immigration has tried to evade widespread criticism by calling its recent decision on visit-visa a matter under consideration.

Issuing a press release today, the Department has stated that its attention has been drawn towards the news in various media outlets regarding amendment to its internal procedure on visit-visa for women. The Department has defended itself by stating that the issue is not how it has been portrayed in media and no decision has been reached regarding the matter, rather the issue is unofficially into consideration.

"The said matter is not how it appears in the news; it is under discussion, unofficially, for women travelling alone for the first time to countries with risk including Gulf and African nations, and for those who do not possess even the basic information regarding their travel," claims the Department, adding that the subject was one that arose from suggestions of the Department's internal task-force.

"We request the general public to not remain in any doubt regarding a matter which is under discussion and regarding which no decision has been reached," DoI said.

Reiterating that no decision has been arrived at, the Department has asserted that while taking such decisions, it will take into consideration constitution defined rights, worldwide standards, public opinion, and implementation process, and that it would keep in mind the fundamental rights of people.

Despite such claims, it is yet to be seen what the Department is contemplating. Even bringing into consideration and discussion such an issue -- which directly attacks the basic rights of a woman and violates the constitution's provision against gender-based discrimination -- says much about the current state of rationale of those who sit on high chairs making decisions "for" and "on behalf" of others whose predicaments they are totally unaware of.

Press Release issued by the Department of Immigration regarding visit-visa for women under the age of 40.
Press Release issued by the Department of Immigration regarding visit-visa for women under the age of 40.