Nepal's women bear brunt of war - UN appeals for protection of women in conflict (NEPAL)

KATHMANDU - The UN in Nepal marked this year's International Women's Day, with a reminder of the plight of Nepali women caught up in the decade-long conflict.


Stressing the necessity to increase protection for women, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Matthew Kahane, expressed deep concern over the deteriorating conditions for women throughout the country: "In the past few weeks, women have been beaten to death, shot at, blown up by landmines and abducted across the country."

"Today, the UN calls on combatants in Nepal to avoid, at all costs, targeting civilian women directly or accidentally, and to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law," he said. "The UN also urges both parties to the conflict to unequivocally hold to account any soldier found to have sexually abused women or girls," he added.

Women in Nepal not only bear the burden of caring for their families when men engage in the fighting or are forced to flee, they are also more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation during warfare. According to Kahane, "war is mostly driven by men, yet too often women are the primary victims; not because women are vulnerable per se but because the circumstance of conflict makes them vulnerable".

Conflict has escalated sharply since the end of the Maoist ceasefire two months ago, and women have once again found themselves in the firing line. The maternal mortality rate in Nepal is already among the highest in the world, yet pregnant women have been prevented from reaching health centers due to shutdowns and curfews or because roads and bridges have been destroyed. Complications during childbirth have ended in tragedy when ambulances have been forced to turn back as a result of roadblocks and explosive devices placed on roads.

Increasingly, Nepali women find themselves widowed by the war or left behind by sons or husbands who have fled to escape forced recruitment or harassment by combatants. As heads of households they must provide for their families, playing new roles that, in many cases, they were neither educated nor prepared for.

"The courage and tenacity that Nepali women are displaying is admirable, but it is also true that the economic and emotional distress they face to ensure the survival of their families increases their risks of physical and mental health problems," said Kahane.
Sexual violence and exploitation are also more likely to occur and be overlooked in wartime when women find themselves alone, temporarily displaced within Nepal or as refugees abroad. "Sparing women and girls from rape and sexual slavery is not just about human rights, but also about human decency and dignity.

The targeting of women and girls with sexual and other violence destroys people's capacities to create a communal life, replacing normal social interaction with distrust and fear, prolonging conflict and delaying reconciliation and recovery" he added.

Posted on the Nepal Information Platform you will find a number of short stories dealing with individual cases that illustrate the UN's concerns and responses in relation to women experiencing war in Nepal:

- Gender violence survivors engaged in skills training (UNHCR) A woman facing displacement - OCHA

- Greater equality holds the promise of peace ' Women entrepreneurs lead the way (UNDP)

- Improving women's reproductive health (UNFPA)

- Nita's runaway (UNICEF)

- Manju wants to be a journalist (OCHA)

- Endless search for the disappeared (OHCHR)

For further information please contact:

Ram Babu Shah on 9851049851 or Macarena Aguilar on 9851014276

Von: 08.03.2006,

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