New rule requiring women under 40 to take approval from family, local ward office to go abroad draws criticism

Date: February 10, 2021
Source: The Kathmandu Post
Location: Kathmandu, Nepal

Prerana’s Take: We need safer migration programmes rather than curbing women’s agency to travel. It’s important to note that families can traffic people too, and while women are a vulnerable group, anyone can be trafficked.No prevention program must come at the cost of taking away women’s rights

In yet another controversial move, which is likely to contradict citizens’ right to free movement, the government has introduced a new rule, asking women under 40 year of age to produce consent from the family and permission from the ward office to travel abroad.

According to Tek Narayan Paudel, a spokesperson with the Department of Immigration, the government has considered adding this rule for women under 40 years of age travelling on visit visas.

“Women under 40 are at a higher risk of trafficking and other abuses. Therefore, the new rule is proposed for their protection,” Paudel told the Post. “Family of the visiting girl/woman and the local ward office will give a recommendation that she can travel abroad.”

Nepalis on social media were quick to slam the move, calling it a regressive rule that deprives women of their agency and curtails their constitutionally guaranteed right to move freely.

“Women under 40 would need permission from her family and the local govt to travel abroad,” wrote a Twitter user. “Regressive rules, limitations on our freedom and agency are NOT what we asked for when we asked the system to guarantee our safety.”

Many have criticised the government for failing to fulfill its duty of ensuring safety to citizens, and instead bringing such rules, which they say do not go down well in a free and democratic society.

“Let’s walk back. Even further back. In our times, some 35 years ago, a woman needed to take permission from either her father, husband or elder brother. Later, the younger brother was included in the list of relatives totalling 11 from whom we had to take permission…,” wrote another.

Mohna Ansari, a former National Human Rights Commissioner, described those coming up with such rules as those walking backwards.

“Those who are walking backwards… send males (or husbands) to get permission from their wives and guardians,” Ansari wrote on Twitter. “Immigrations officers… only women are sold, when will we hear about males being sold.”

Another Twitter user asked government (male) officials to stop taking decisions for women.

“Stop taking decisions for women. The prevalence of patriarchal mindset/madness may allow you to show your misogynist concerns but controlling women just because you’re in power is sheer impiety towards the entire gender. You don’t speak for us, you can’t control us,” she wrote.

In the past, a series of bans on Nepali migrant workers going abroad has been criticised for rather forcing women to take unsafe routes.

The government’s protectionist approach has failed to yield expected results as women have continued to migrate abroad through illegal routes and landing in trouble after being trafficked and into forced labour.

The government, however, tried to justify its move.

“This [new rule] is also for keeping a record so that whenever those [women] face any problem, it will be easier for the government to trace them,” said Paudel, the immigration official. “There have been incidents of Nepali citizens going on visit visas with the plan of working later… and then getting stranded.”

But people refused to buy that argument.

“When will we begin viewing women as human beings capable of making decisions for themselves in this country?” wrote another Twitter user. “Absolutely preposterous.”

Read The Kathmandu Post (Source) article here.

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