Every year, people across Nepal are subjected to violence, poor health outcomes, and death as a result of harmful practices. These practices stem from deeply embedded patriarchal norms and unequal power relations and are a significant barrier to the realization of human rights and equality in development outcomes, particularly for women and persons from excluded groups. Despite significant advancements in legislative and policy frameworks, harmful practices continue to pervade in Nepal.
In 2018, in recognition of harmful practices being barriers to realizing our commitments to Agenda 2030 and the principle of Leaving No One Behind, the Harmful Practices Working Group (HPWG) was established by the United Nations Country Team to support an informed, coordinated and coherent approach to addressing harmful practices across outcome areas of the UN Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022.
This literature review will act as a resource across sectors to better understand five harmful practices and their impact, namely:
menstrual restrictions including chhaupadi
dowry and dowry-related violence
witchcraft accusations and persecution
While these practices are distinct, placing particular excluded groups at risk, they are interconnected and can have compounded effects on individuals. They are also related and are often perpetuated by one another. Thus, individuals, in particular women and excluded groups, may experience several harmful practices throughout their life.
Harmful practices are deeply embedded within social, cultural and religious norms and are often perceived as traditional in communities in which they are practiced. It is essential that research and strategies are informed and developed jointly with those who practice and experience these harmful practices in their day-to-day lives. The HPWG is committed to researching and untangling the complexities of these practices within social, political, economic and religious structures. This report is dedicated to exploring key harmful practices in Nepal, based on both rigorous and in some cases smaller bodies of evidence, to set the foundation for future research and action.
The impact of harmful practices cut across all development sectors, by for example limiting meaningful participation in decision making (castebased discrimination, menstrual restrictions, accusations of witchcraft) or restricting livelihoods and economic opportunities (dowry, caste-based discrimination, child marriage, menstrual restrictions, accusations of witchcraft).
Harmful practices cannot be addressed by one sector alone but require a multi-sectoral approach. Our goal is to ensure that those working across different areas of development have the necessary information to address harmful practices in their programming to ensure that everyone realizes their right to a life of dignity, free from physical, sexual, social, and emotional violence and discrimination.