Nepal strengthens laws against dowry, menstrual exile

It is often the village shamans - who fill a void left by woefully poor medical services in rural Nepal - and the elderly who are the guardians of the ritual. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2017
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Nepal strengthens laws against dowry, menstrual exile

Katmandu, NEPAL: Nepal’s parliament has passed a bill toward making women safer by strengthening laws against acid attacks along with the ancient Hindu customs of demanding dowry payments for marriage and exiling women who are menstruating.
The new law goes into effect in August 2018, with violators who force women into exile facing punishments of up to three months in jail or a fine of 3,000 Nepalese rupees, or about $29.
Many menstruating women are still forced to leave their homes and take shelter in unhygienic or insecure huts or cow sheds until their cycle ends, though the practice — called Chhaupadi — was actually outlawed a decade ago. But without any assigned penalties, the custom continued in many parts of the majority Hindu Himalayan country, especially in the western hills.
While exiled in isolation, some women face bitter cold or attacks by wild animals. Unclean conditions can also cause infections.
“People will be discouraged to follow this discriminatory custom due to fear of punishment” now that the new bill is passed, said lawmaker Krishna Bhakta Pokhrel from the committee that drafted the bill.
But a female parliamentarian from the far-western district of Doti, where menstrual exile is still practiced, said the legislation passed Wednesday alone would not be enough, and the government should also invest in educating women on good hygiene.
“Fear of punishment will not stop people from following this custom who think women are impure during menstruation,” Gauri Kumari Oli told the Associated Press on Thursday. “The government and non-governmental agencies should start to do more to raise awareness.”
She herself was made to observe the custom, albeit not so strictly, she said.
“Like it happens elsewhere in Nepal, I was asked not to enter inside the temple or the kitchen,” she said. “But I never had to go to sleep in shed.”
The legislation was part of an ongoing effort to improve the country’s laws, and also criminalizes other deep-rooted customs that harm women, including slavery, acid attacks and the dowry system, by which a woman’s family must secure her marriage prospects by paying the groom and his family.


No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

Updated 25 min 17 sec ago
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No indication North Korea nuclear activities stopped: UN watchdog

  • ‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern’
  • The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery

VIENNA: The UN’s nuclear watchdog said it had not seen any indication that nuclear activities in North Korea have stopped despite its pledges to denuclearize.
“The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,” said a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), referring to North Korea’s official name.
The report, published late Monday, by the director general of Yukiya Amano is to be submitted to an IAEA board meeting in September.
In 2009 Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors from its Yongbyon nuclear site and has since refused to allow IAEA inspections on its territory.
The watchdog has stepped up monitoring through open source information and satellite imagery, it said.
“As the Agency remains unable to carry out verification activities in the DPRK, its knowledge of the DPRK’s nuclear program is limited and, as further nuclear activities take place in the country, this knowledge is declining,” it said.
Between late-April and early-May, there were indications of the operation of the steam plant that serves the radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon site, according to the report.
However, the duration of the steam plant’s operation was not sufficient to have supported the reprocessing of a complete core from the experimental nuclear power plant reactor, it added.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump held a groundbreaking summit in Singapore in June.
At the meeting the pair struck a vague agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but there has been little movement since.
Before this, Kim met South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April for their first summit. They agreed to push for a declaration of an end to the Korean War this year.