Nepal: Lawyers commit to countering gender stereotyping in the administration of justice

Legal practitioners from Nepal have agreed that gender stereotyping discourages women from accessing judicial processes so lawyers must be mindful of such stereotypes and biases while providing legal services. The lawyers also formulated action points that they are committed to implementing to eliminate gender stereotyping and discriminatory attitudes towards women.

The commitment came from 30 legal practitioners at a national workshop organized jointly by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) on Eliminating Gender Discriminatory Attitudes and Behaviours Towards Women and Enhancing Access to Justice for women in Kathmandu on 4-5 November.

The practitioners included representatives from various bar units of Kathmandu Valley and lawyers associated with legal aid organizations. The objective of the workshop was to identify gender stereotypical thinking and discriminatory conduct in the Nepalese justice system and legal profession to formulate strategies to eliminate these attitudes to enhance access to justice for women.

The participants, applying international human rights law and standards, identified action points for the NBA, including, conducting legal awareness programs throughout the country; reviewing discriminatory laws and advocating for reform; strengthening the free legal aid and pro-bono services to indigent people and specifically for women; taking steps to make the justice mechanisms woman friendly. Similarly, they shared their personal experiences of gender stereotypes and discrimination women have faced in their own situations from police stations to courtrooms.

The ICJ Commissioner and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal Justice Kalyan Shrestha, in his opening remarks, stated: “engagement with the judiciary and justice actors can no doubt change their gendered stereotypical thinking to make legal processes accessible for women.”

Prominent human rights defender and Senior Advocate from Pakistan, Hina Jilani, sharing experiences on supporting victims through legal aid noted, “A victim should not be made dependent, rather a lawyer should work to empower such victim. Free legal aid programs have supported women, especially women victims of domestic violence to come forward to seek justice in Pakistan.”

Bandana Rana, a member of UN CEDAW Committee highlighted that gender stereotypes is a major barrier for women to exercise their rights.

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, heading the ICJ’s Women’s Access to Justice Project, gave an overview of the Bangkok General Guidelines (BGG) on applying a gender perspective in South and Southeast Asia and highlighted the role of lawyers in implementing the guidance to create a woman friendly judicial process.

Laxmi Pokharel, ICJ Nepal National Legal Adviser, said many gender stereotypes still exist in law and practice in Nepal despite the progressive Constitution in terms of gender equality. She added: “removal of gender stereotypes in justice actors, including judges, lawyers and judicial officials, is a key element to make the victims feel comfortable to seek legal remedy whenever needed”.

Senior Advocate Sunita Regmi Pokharel and senior Advocate Prof. Geeta Pathak highlighted several barriers for women to access justice that remain in practice. These barriers include insufficient victim and witness protection mechanisms, victim-friendly infrastructure, the high cost of seeking access to justice (court fees and lawyer’s fee) as well as gender insensitive attitudes and behaviour of justice
actors towards women.

Experts/ panelists included: Senior Advocate Megh Raj Pokhrel, Member, Supreme Court Bar Association; Senior Advocate Meera Dhungana, Member, Supreme Court Bar Association; Advocate Rakshya Basyal, former chair, Women Lawyer’s Committee, Nepal Bar Association; Advocate Bal Krishna Devkota – Member, Supreme Court Bar Association and Dr. Mandira Sharma, ICJ Senior International Legal Adviser.

The workshop was organized under the ‘Enhancing Access to Justice for Women in Asia and the Pacific’ project funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh – Lead, Women’s Access to Justice Project, International
Commission of Jurists, t: +27 84 514 8039 e:

Laxmi Pokharel, National Legal Adviser International Commission of Jurists, t: +9779851047588, e:

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