Mamata Nepali (21) of Tila Rural Municipality-4, Jumla, was beaten to death by her husband Aite Sarki on March 12.
In another incident on the same day, police arrested three men on charge of raping a 29-year-old woman in Ghorahi municipality, Dang district.
These are among the latest instances of violence against women in the country.
The United Nations has defined gender-based violence (GBV) as any act that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.Despite significant progress made in policy formulation and programs by the government, violence against women still continues across the country.
Data paint an alarming pic
Nepal Police data reveal that the violence against women has drastically increased across the country in the past 10 years. According to the data, 2,250 cases of violence against women and children were reported in the fiscal 2068/2069 BS. Ten years later (2078/2079 BS), the number rose to 17,000.
Experts working in the field of women’s rights point out the patriarchal mindset of people, taking women as second class citizens, a rise in the tendency of reporting the incidents and use of various social media as some of the causes for a rise in the number of cases of violence against women.
“Forms of violence have changed in the last few years. The violence against women has now started on social media,” said Sabin Shrestha, advocate.
In the fiscal 2078/79, crimes against women, children and senior citizens numbered 21,342. The highest number of crimes against women was in Madhesh Province (5056) followed by Lumbini Province (3,605). The number of crimes against women and children stood at 337 in the year 2053/54, Nepal Police report reveals.
Among the types of crimes against women and children, domestic violence is largely reported. Nepal Demographic Health Survey data reveal that 34 percent of women who have experienced spousal physical or sexual violence have sustained injuries. Cuts and bruises are the most common types of injuries reported.
Unequal power relations between the male and female is one of the major causes behind violence against women in Nepal, the experts say.
“Women are confined, they do not have access and are controlled. Also, there is a feeling that anything can be done to a woman. Devoid of livelihood, women suffer from all kinds of violence,” said Laxmi Aryal, Program and Training Manager at WOREC Nepal.
Cases go unreported
Despite a large number of women undergoing violence against them many of the cases go unreported. “It is difficult for a woman to open up about the violence she has undergone. Unfriendly judicial process, lack of family support, finances, victim blaming on social media are some of the causes for women to file cases against the perpetrator,” said Shrestha.
People should have proper information about the process of reporting the cases. They should also know about the process to file cases.
“Lack of information about the process to fight against violence, agencies to get help from, lack of evidence, difficult judicial procedure, stigmatization and worries regarding children’s future prevent women from reporting the cases,” said Aryal.
With hurdles in the system, women prevent themselves from reporting the cases. According to the NDHS, 66 percent of women who have experienced any type of physical or sexual violence have not sought any help or talked with anyone about resisting or stopping the violence they experience. Power dynamics and politicization of the cases have also prevented women from reporting the cases.
Shrestha points out that the verdicts on recent high-profile rape cases have started deterring women from reporting the crimes against them. “It has made women think that they will not get justice. Power and politics affect the cases. So, women think they will not get justice,” Shrestha said.
The NDHS reveals that 22 percent of women in Nepal aged 15-49 years have experienced physical violence since age 15 and seven percent have even experienced sexual violence. Six percent of women who have ever been pregnant have experienced violence during pregnancy.
Chairperson of CPN-UML KP Sharma Oli, on the International Women’s Day (March 8), had stressed the need for all sides of the society to cooperate and raise awareness to discourage all sorts of violence against women. “There should be laws in place that root out all sorts of violence against women, gender discrimination and violence by booking perpetrators and compensating victims,” Oli had said.
The experts say that the psychological part of men should also be looked at. “The current situation is difficult. Younger generations have their own issues. There is frustration among people. Psychological aspects of the people should be discussed to lessen the number of cases,” said Shrestha.
“Respect for the marginalized ones, clear provisions and policies to address the issues, building strong networks, changing the mindset of people, mobilization of youths, discussions, male engagement, amendments in acts and regulations and review of discriminatory policies will help reduce the number of cases,” suggested Aryal.
GBV prevention fund
Compensation, services such as shelters, legal aid and psychological counseling are necessary for women to fight the violence against them.
The government has adopted legislation and institutional arrangements to advance women’s human rights. As such, the government has established a GBV prevention fund at the center. But, from among the 753 local levels across the country, only 115 municipalities have established this fund.
The Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens had initially released a budget of Rs 100,000 each for every local level in the country for establishing the fund. Province 1 government has also granted an additional 500,000 rupees to the rural municipalities and municipalities in the province. The rights activists suggest that all three tiers of the government should work together to amend laws, policies and practices that give rise to cases of GBV.
The Ministry of Health and Population runs the One-stop Crisis Management Centre (OCMC) in coordination with government hospitals, but most victims of domestic abuse are unaware of the service. The center was established at Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital in 2011-12.
A total of 94 hospitals now run OCMCs across all seven provinces. These centers provide temporary rehabilitation, legal aid, and health services, including psycho-social services and rehabilitation free of cost to the survivors. These provisions are meant to ensure that survivors of GBV and those affected by it receive health services, legal aid and counseling services as well as other required services without discrimination of any kind.
- Women with five or more children experience physical violence more often (35 percent) than women with no children (9 percent)
- Experience of physical violence is more common among employed women, irrespective of whether they are employed for cash (28 percent) or not for cash (21 percent), than among women who are not employed (17 percent)
- Divorced, separated, or widowed women are more likely to have experienced physical violence (46 percent) than currently married women (25 percent) and never married women (6 percent)
- Most ever-married women who have experienced physical violence since age 15 report current husbands as perpetrators (84 percent) and 11 percent report former husbands. Seven percent report mothers-in-law and 5 percent report other in-laws as perpetrators
Physical spousal violence: push you, shake you, or throw something at you; slap you; twist your arm or pull your hair; punch you with his/her fist or with something that could hurt you; kick you, drag you, or beat you up; try to choke you or burn you on purpose; or threaten or attack you with a knife, gun, or any other weapon
Sexual spousal violence: physically force you to have sexual intercourse with him even when you did not want to; physically force you to perform any other sexual acts you did not want to; force you with threats or in any other way to perform sexual acts you did not want to
Emotional spousal violence: say or do something to humiliate you in front of others; threaten to hurt or harm you or someone close to you; insult you or make you feel bad about yourself