Decriminalisation of abortion in Nepal: Tabooed yet crucial debate

Mar 02, 2021

Abortion should prima facie be decriminalised with certain exceptions (sex selective abortion, harm to mother's body with intent to hurt foetus and others) as a crime. Decriminalisation does not mean deregulation, and the issue of abortion must be treated as a medical procedure, where the well-being of the women is placed at the centre.

Nepal adopted reproductive health rights as a fundamental right for the first time in its interim constitution 2007 (2063 B.S) under article 20(2) 'Rights of Women'. This was carried forward by the new, existing constitution, 'Constitution of Nepal 2015 (2072 B.S)' under Article 38(2). Furthermore, the Supreme Court in the (2067 B.S) case of Laxmi Dhikta vs Nepal Government clearly defined abortion as an integral aspect of reproductive health rights and women's human right and went on to say that "it is contradictory and incompatible that the issue of abortion which has emerged as a new right is still placed under the strict criminal procedure in the Penal Code (2020) under the Chapter on Homicide", and ordered to regulate the issue of abortion by promulgating separate specific legislation.