Gender-biased sex selection in favour of sons is a manifestation of gender inequality embedded in tradition, culture, religion, social, economic and legal injustices that undervalue girls and women, says Minister of Health and Population Hridayesh Tripathi.

"There is a positive legal framework in Nepal such as the constitution of Nepal, Civil Code, Penal Code and Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act, but despite constitutional and legal guarantees ensuring gender equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex and gender, Nepali women face discrimination in various walks of life," the minister noted.

He said this while addressing the High-Level Inter-Ministerial Dialogue on scaling up action to end son preference and GBSS on Friday. The programme was organised by the United Nations Population Fund in partnership with the European Commission and Norwegian government. The virtual dialogue was a side at the High Level Forum on Commission on Status of Women. "GBSS is across all culture and religion and is coupled with traditions such as dowry and laws around inheritance which undervalue girls.

Hence, it require a multi-dimensional approach," he further said.

Nepal observed an increase in Sex Ratio at Birth as fertility decline, easy access to sex determination technology and son preference are evident in the country. A UNFPA study has confirmed 12 hotspot districts in the country where SRB ratio is imbalanced.

There is a strong pressure on women to bear a son, which hampers her right to choice, health and may even lead to violence.

Laws and positive legal framework alone cannot address this multi-dimensional issue and require holistic understanding that unless there is equal value of girls and boys socially and economically, this cannot be addressed, he said. "Controlling technology used as a tool for sex selection and restricting laws against abortion would only perpetuate further victimisation of women."

Thanking UNFPA for the invitation and opportunity to share Nepal's achievements, the minister said Nepal was proud of its achievement in the development of National Strategy on GBSS.

"This strategy is an important step towards efforts to meet the needs of Sustainable Development Goals Targets and associated indicators."

As a lead government agency, Tripathi said his ministry was committed to working with other line ministries in the implementation of the strategy to address the overall root causes of GBSS to eliminate discrimination against girls and women in all sectors.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 14, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.