March 18, 2021

Pro Bono Team’s Reproductive Rights Recommendations Included in UN Report on Nepal


A team of Milbank associates drafted a joint submission concerning the Universal Periodic Review of Nepal, which was considered during the 37th Session of the Universal Periodic Report Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council. The submission offered recommendations on improving women’s and girls’ access to reproductive rights and services in Nepal that were eventually highlighted in two United Nations (UN) reports.

The joint submission, prepared with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) and the Justice and Rights Institute- Nepal (JuRI- Nepal), highlighted the ongoing restrictions on safe abortion services in Nepal, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. The team included associates Erin Culbertson, Pinky Mehta, Hannah Blazek, Ashton Yarnall and Marcela Barba.

The submission noted that despite the Nepali government’s enactment of the Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights Act and the Public Health Service Act, both of which unequivocally recognize the right to abortion and require that abortion services be offered for free at government health facilities, these Acts had not yet been implemented. The government also had failed to address numerous legal and procedural barriers restricting women’s access to safe abortion services. As a remedy, the submission urged United Nations Member States to adopt recommendations such as taking immediate steps to decriminalize abortion in Nepal in all cases, eliminating punitive measures for women who undergo abortions, and guaranteeing that reproductive rights remain at the core of Nepal’s governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring continued access to reproductive health services.

As a result of the Milbank team’s research, the drafted recommendations were included in the Summary of Stakeholders’ submissions, a report prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). OHCHR’s Compilation on Nepal report also highlighted the issue of decriminalizing abortion in all cases.

“It is extremely fulfilling to see these recommendations adopted by the UN and to know that our work is part of a global effort to improve women’s and girls’ access to critical healthcare and reproductive services in Nepal,” said Milbank associate Erin Culbertson.

The Milbank team was led by Capital Markets partner Paul Denaro.