Constructing SSLM: Insights from Struggles over Women’s Rights in Nepal

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Abstract: This paper explores the extent to which Nepali women are able to defend, enforce and/or expand their rights through engagement with the legal system. Research with two different women’s NGOs shows that it is extremely difficult for an individual woman – particularly one who is poor and marginalised – to engage with the legal system, but it becomes possible if undertaken with a women’s NGO that can effectively act as an intermediary. Drawing on Epp’s notion of a “support structure for legal mobilisation” (1998), this paper considers the broad range of resources necessary for poor and marginalised women aided by NGOs to engage with the judiciary. In doing so, it highlights the critical role of normative values and behaviours in facilitating or impairing legal mobilisation by women and the political, technical and social capacities of NGOs. The paper argues that while the legal framework is an important element in the realisation of women’s rights, legal engagement should nevertheless be seen as one part of a multi-pronged strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-265
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Studies Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • legal mobilisation
  • Nepal
  • NGOs
  • women’s rights


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