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The Disability Situation in Nepal

Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from Disability World, Issue No. 24, June-August 2004.

Nepali society still views disability as a penance to the sins committed in previous births. People with disabilities are treated, worst, as an object of pity. People with disabilities are chided, as a matter of social prestige, by families. The notion that people with disabilities have equal rights and duties, as any other individuals, is largely absent from the popular mindset.

There is no comprehensive data on disability in Nepal. Even the number of people with disabilities varies according to source. An estimated 7-10 percent of the total population in Nepal are people with disabilities of one form or another. The visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically disabled, mentally retarded and mentally disordered are recognized by the Government of Nepal.

Rights of all people with disabilities to participate fully in society have not been practiced by the state. In terms of health, accessibility, education, economy and employment opportunities, people with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens.

Research has indicated that most of the disabled persons (69.3%) depend upon support from their family members. Having a disabled person posed problems in most (90.5%) of the households. The difficulties they faced were mostly related to the inability of disabled persons to work, and taking care of the disabled persons, like teaching a new task, or having to leave the disabled persons alone.

Moreover, still a large number of disabled persons have not got any kind of treatment. This could be due to lack of knowledge and awareness that impairments can be treated. It could also be because the family does not have the resources, or because the health facilities do not function properly and staff does not know about disability.

Similarly, according to the findings of New Era, most of disabled persons have no education (68.2%) as compared to the general population, where 4.8 percent have no education. The literacy rate is considerably lower for females than males, with 77.7 percent of females and 59.6 percent of males having no education. The participation of disabled persons in skill training is also negligible.

Women with disabilities have been facing double discrimination, first as a disabled person and second as a woman. Though there is a provision of five years' additional prison sentence for rapists of women with disabilities, the clause that grossly discriminates between men with a disability (MWD) and women with disabilities (WWD) is still active in Muluki Ain, (2020 B.S.).

The Marriage chapter, clause 9 of Muluki Ain, permits husbands to remarry another woman if his wife gets a visual or locomotive impairment. The same is not given to women. This is the case of double discrimination for being a woman and a disabled person.

The Stakeholders Involved in the Theme

The government at both central and local levels, NGO's (non-governmental organizations) working on disability, and INGO's/UN (international non-governmental organizations/United Nations) Agencies, have been involved in disability sector mainly in the following areas:

  • Conducting Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programmes.

  • Raising awareness and advocacy activities to protect and promote the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities.

  • Providing preventive and corrective measures of disability in the health sector.

  • Providing scholarships and conducting special education through an integrated approach.

  • Providing vocational training and other income generating opportunities to support and promote livelihood.

  • Introducing policies and laws for protecting rights and opportunities of people with disabilities.

Attempts Being Made by Government and Others and the Gaps

Programmes and services to address disability are very limited and they have been focused specially in urban areas mainly. These initiatives are charity-based and not from the rights perspective. A study done by New Eras says a majority of people with disabilities are out of education opportunities, health facility, accessibility, social security, aid and appliances, vocational skills, income-generating programs, Community Based Rehabilitation etc.

Despite recent efforts from the media and self-help organizations, a large number of people with disabilities are unaware of their rights. They still think of disability as sin of their past life and prefer to be the subject of pity and charity, rather than to seek their rights to live a respectable life in the society.

Changes in the governing law have become a charity outlook on disability. Without ensuring rights to live a social life for the disabled people through legislation, the programmes designed for people with disabilities become futile.

The amended draft of "Disability Persons' Welfare and Protection Act 2039 (DPWA)" also does not fully ensure the equitable and dignified life of people with disabilities.

The Constitutional clauses also have not been enacted to make special arrangements for the people with disabilities. To address the need of preservation to ensure participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of social life, the present constitution also needs to be amended accordingly.

All the discriminatory provisions in existing laws, including the marriage clause of Muluki Ain, should be eliminated.

Linkage with Identified Gaps to Action Aid Nepal's (AAN) Vision, Mission and Goals

The mission of AAN is "to eradicate poverty through the process of empowerment of the poorest and most marginalized women, men, girls and boys." The values of AAN include empathy with the poor and marginalized, mutual respect and equity, non-sectarian, quality and excellence. Disability is an area of AAN's engagement with these core values to address inequality and injustices re disabilities.

AAN considers a person with a disability as one of the rights holders' group. Action Aid believes that "poverty is eradicable" and wants to eradicate poverty through the process of "empowerment of the poorest and most marginalized". The person with a disability (PWD) is considered to be the poorest of the poor. It is impossible to eradicate poverty without including PWD's. Therefore, AAN is involved in different sets of activities concerning disability issues.

Action Aid International Thematic Objectives

  • To enhance people with disabilities' socialization process and mainstreaming them in development by creating positive attitudes towards disability.

  • To organize campaigns and advocate in partnership with different stakeholders and rights holders groups and organizations for the rights of people with disabilities.

  • To build the capacity of people with disabilities to claim their rights and entitlements from society and state.

  • To support people with disabilities to be self-reliant through social, economic and medical rehabilitation.


  • Creating awareness of the rights of people with disabilities by utilizing all available means, mass and mediums of information, communication and education.

  • Mobilizing people with disabilities to be organized by assisting to create a network of self-help groups and to get rightful assistance from the state.

  • Supporting to establish and strengthen the mechanism to bring all stakeholders together to work closely in the disability theme.

Immediate Actions

  • Activities related to social, economic and medical rehabilitation is planned to enable people with disabilities to lead a dignified life.

  • Attempt cooperation among partners and other organizations to create a donor consortium on disability.

  • Collaboration with other concerned organizations to launch the organizational campaign of self-help groups at the local level.

  • Collection, translation and developing of legal instruments and advocacy materials.

  • Developing a media strategy with a manual for extensive multi-media campaign.

  • Establishing a clearinghouse and information centre.

Short Term Outcomes

  • The rights of people with disabilities to education, accessibility, medical services will be initiated even in the remote part of the country.

  • The participation of people with disabilities in decision-making forums will be increased even in the VDC and DDC levels.

  • Disability issues will be heard in the mainstream of the development by several organizations.

  • Awareness and acceptance of the rights-based approach to disability will be increased among all stakeholders, including people with disabilities.

  • An effective network of local self-help organizations of people with disabilities will be built up.

  • Adequate laws and policies to address disability will be in place.

  • A mechanism will be developed to publish an annual status report on disability, which will enhance the capacity and transparency of rights holders and stakeholders.

  • A clearinghouse and information centre will be established.

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