KATHMANDU, SEPTEMBER 4

The apex court today asked the government to put women at the centre of COVID-19 response.

The Supreme Court observed that women’s interests had not been protected in the distribution of relief materials and quarantine management and the government had not ensured representation of women in the High-level COVID-19 Crisis Management and Coordination Committee.

The SC ordered the government to ensure women’s inclusive representation in any discussion, mechanism or committee related to COVID management and control.

Observing that there has been an unprecedented rise in crimes against women during the pandemic worldwide, the apex court ordered the government to immediately start online case registration and hearing for victims of gender and domestic violence. It added that since lockdown had impacted the service of Nepal Police, courts and other agencies, online case registration and hearing were necessary to ensure women’s right to justice.

The court asked the government to set up telephone helpline or Facebook page in all 753 local levels to provide service to victims of gender and domestic violence.

Citing the WHO guidelines that state needs of vulnerable population should be prioritised while setting up quarantine centres, the apex court asked the government to provide healthy food, safe drinking water to people staying in quarantine centres and ensure social distancing rules in those centres. The court also ordered the government to set up quality quarantine and isolation centres for women, new mothers, pregnant women, children, senior citizens, differently abled people and other vulnerable population.

Citing the WHO guidelines that state women’s choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health care should be respected regardless of COVID-19 status, the apex court observed that essential health package should be available for women to ensure their reproductive health. It also ordered the government to immediately frame rules related to safe motherhood and reproductive rights. SC also ordered the government to take special protection measures for Nepali women who have lost jobs in the country or abroad.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 5, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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