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Human Rights Lawyer, Activist

Divya Srinivasan, Legal Advisor, celebrates Sapana Pradhan Malla as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.

As a pioneer in the women’s rights movement in South Asia, Sapana continues to inspire young feminists like myself. Her many successes in using the law to advance women’s rights and fight against discrimination have helped, and continue to help, improve the lives of millions of women and girls. From equal inheritance to reproductive health and rights, to criminalizing marital rape, ensuring witness protection for victims and others involved in gender-based violence (GBV) cases, and maintaining confidentiality in these legal proceedings, Sapana’s work and jurisprudence have touched so many facets. 

Sapana has worked extensively in strategic litigation, including helping to ensure Nepal was the first South Asian country to criminalize marital rape following a 2000 Supreme Court decision. This decision sets an important standard, and we use Nepal’s laws as an example to encourage other South Asian countries to address marital rape, where it is still not recognized as a crime in much of the region

Sapana has helped to pave the way for a great deal of the progress Equality Now has achieved in South Asia over these past three decades. She is the founder of the  Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), which advocates for reforms to sex discriminatory laws in Nepal and has been a tremendous partner for Equality Now in the region. 

I know I’m not alone when I say Sapna has given so many of my fellow female attorneys and me a special sense of what’s possible. It is thanks to her that we have an example of the results excellent legal advocacy can achieve and the ability of the law to result in changes that have a real-life impact on the lives of women and girls. That’s something I take with me in my work every day and whenever I use my legal knowledge to advocate on behalf of women and girls.

A headshot of Sapana Pradhan Malla

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