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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Nepal women win abortion rights
Women on the streets of Nepal
The new law aims to end gender discrimination

A new law in Nepal that decriminalises abortion and broadens women's property rights has come into effect, officials say.

Parliament in Kathmandu passed the bill earlier this year, but then the legislature was dissolved and fresh elections called.

A Nepali woman in a market
Nepalese women had to wait for years to win these rights
The former Deputy Speaker, Chitralekha Yadav, says the legislation has now been given royal assent and is on the statute books.

Before this, any abortion was illegal in Nepal - women's activists had been campaigning for years for the ban to be lifted.

According to doctors, Nepal's abortion ban forced untold thousands of women to seek dangerous back-street abortions.

No accurate estimates exist of the number of women who died or were maimed after unsterile operations.

At one point, in the late 1990s, nearly 100 women were in jail in Nepal, accused of seeking or having illegal abortions.

Some were behind bars with their children; others, according to their lawyers, had merely had miscarriages but were accused of aborting their babies by relatives or neighbours.

Good start

That is now no longer the case.

The new law overturns the total ban on abortion and allows pregnancies to be terminated up to three months after conception, or longer if rape or incest were involved.

The legislation, which took years to formulate and faced considerable opposition, allows women to inherit their parents' property as well.

And the bill expressly bans sexual relations with children.

Human rights groups had warned that paedophiles might target countries without express legal bans on sex with children.

The former Deputy Speaker, Ms Yadav, says major achievements have now taken place to end gender discrimination in Nepal.

The country's leading women's rights campaigner has welcomed all of the changes and says they are a good start in helping the women of Nepal towards full equality with men.

See also:

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