28 Jun 2019
Nepal: Constitutional reforms present window of opportunity to prevent torture and promote mental health

TPO is leading efforts to ensure that the newly established provinces and municipalities effectively prevent torture and provide mental health services to people affected by torture trauma.

Nepal: Constitutional reforms present window of opportunity to prevent torture and promote mental health

The 2015 Nepali Constitution devolved power in the country, implementing a federal governance structure with seven provincial and 753 local governments. In this context, TPO Nepal are holding conferences and capacity building workshops with local stakeholders to assist them in implementing public policies geared towards preventing torture, ensuring access to justice and providing rehabilitation services.

“We are criss-crossing the country,” said Pitambar Koirala, Programme Coordinator at TPO Nepal. “The new constitutional framework is providing us with a unique opportunity to ensure that regional and local officials are aware of the prohibition against torture, its impact on communities and their obligations to support victims.

The Nepali government has taken several positive steps to fight torture in the country, including through the Torture Compensation Actthe 2017 Criminal Code, which criminalizes torture, and a separate anti-torture law currently being discussed by the Nepali parliament.

“We have spent the last four years collecting extensive data on the impact of torture in Nepal. We are using this data to work together with the government to develop a comprehensive torture prevention strategy based on international standards and practices,” said Suraj Koirala, Executive Manager of TPO Nepal.

At the federal level, TPO Nepal have been carrying out advocacy for the establishment of an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of torture, the abolition of the 35-day statute of limitations, the enactment of an anti-torture law in line with international standards, ensuring that victims are protected during judicial proceedings and that they receive rehabilitation services.

Large portions of the Nepali population are suffering from trauma-related mental health problems as a consequence of its turbulent past including from the widespread use of torture. Studies show rates of depression, anxiety and alcohol use disorders of 34, 33 and 20 percent respectively in the country. Unfortunately, fewer than 10 percent of those affected receive treatment.

The ramifications of this can be detrimental. The physical injuries can lead to permanent disability and the psychological pain can prevent people from even carrying out their daily routinesoften leading to social isolation and stigmatization. Rehabilitation and mental health services are therefore critical as they help victims rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, only a few among the thousands of victims receive the support they need. Quality mental health services are often inaccessible where the victims are located, and in areas where services are provided by NGOs like TPO, they are often not adequately funded by governments to support all the victims who approach them for help. 

“There is a clear gap between demand for and availability of services. This is why we are advocating for the establishment of services that have local ownership, are culturally appropriate and of high quality”, said Mr Suraj Koirala. “The response by local authorities has been very positive so far and it is clear that there is a need for continuous support and follow-up to ensure sustainability”.   

For more information

Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal) collects detailed data and quantitative information about the experiences of its clients using the Anti-Torture Database (ATD). The ATD allows torture rehabilitation centres like TPO Nepal to capture, store and analyse data collected from torture victims throughout the rehabilitation process, within strict ethical and safety standards. The information is then used to improve the quality of services and identify patterns of torture through, among other aspects, information about victims, perpetrators, context of perpetration, methods of torture and related damage. 

To learn more about the work of TPO Nepal, please visit https://tponepal.org/  

To learn more about the IRCT’s data collection programme, please visit 

https://irct.org/campaigns/global-torture-data  

“We are criss-crossing the country. The new constitutional framework is providing us with a unique opportunity to ensure that regional and local officials are aware of the prohibition against torture, its impact on communities and their obligations to support victims.

- Pitambar Koirala, Programme Coordinator at TPO Nepal

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