EMRIP16: Item 7 – International Decade of Indigenous Languages by Hira Kumari
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
17-21 July 2023
Item 7 of the provisional agenda
International Decade of Indigenous Languages
Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP)
National Indigenous Women Federation
Delivered by: Hira Kumari Sinjali
Thank you, Mr. Chair,
Indigenous brothers and sisters
Nepal government has used a one-language policy as a tool for linguistic genocide. Linguistic abuse remains in public and private affairs. Due to this, 10 languages are already extinct and 20 are near extinct. Often Indigenous Peoples are defamed for not appropriately speaking the official language, Khas Nepali. For instance, the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRDs), Suman Sayami, was restricted from speaking their mother language while they were kept in police custody of the Capital city.
The Supreme Court (2015) has enacted a policy regarding hiring translators for court procedures, this policy has not been implemented in practice. There is a Constitutional provision regarding education in the mother language (art 31.5) without obligation of the government. Under this provision, the state is not obligated for any budgetary and other necessary support, but communities can run schools if they wish to. This provision remains only in the paper.
There are some positive efforts taken by the languages commission of Nepal. Kamala Sen Kusunda is the only survivor who speaks the Kusunda language. For the protection of the Kusunda language, the language commission hired Ms. Kamala as the resource for teaching the Kusunda language to other Kusunda children providing minimum remuneration to her. Currently, 14 Kusunda children can speak the Kusunda language. Finally, this language is protected from being extinct to some extent. This shows the importance of the government’s role in protecting and transmitting the languages of Indigenous Peoples. The cabinet the Province No. 3 Province passed a Bill that declares Tamang and Newa: languages are the official working language of the Province.
- Functional and justice-oriented constitutional language commission is crucial for promoting and protecting of IPs languages;
- National language policy is of utmost importance for the promotion and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ languages in Nepal;
Thank you Mr. Chair!