Violence against women and girls in Nepal is an area that receives much attention from NGOs and government agencies, but the problem still persists. A 2012 study conducted by the government of Nepal found that of the 900 women surveyed, 48% of women experienced gender-based violence (GBV) in their lives, and 28% had experienced violence in the past twelve months. On a recent trip to the districts of Baglung and Kaski, a team from NepalMonitor.org had the opportunity to visit with different individuals who are striving to mitigate the effects of GBV in their communities. In recognition of November 25th International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nepal Monitor is pleased to present this blog entry focusing on those committed to creating awareness of and reducing gender-based violence (GBV) in Nepal.
Combating Genderbased Violence in Baglung: Alpakalin Sewa Kendra
In Baglung, we met with Sharmila Thapa Chetri, the coordinator of Alpakalin Sewa Kendra, a temporary women’s shelter that houses women and their children who are victims of domestic violence. The shelter receives roughly 8-10 women each month, and the most common complaints are of domestic abuse from their husbands as well as in-laws, and rape cases, though very few cases of spousal rape. The shelter provides counseling, medical assistance at the local hospital, and legal assistance. The women are also provided with a clothing allowance of 1,500NR, shelter, food, as well as any necessary transportation fees. The center serves the whole district of Baglung, but also assists women coming from other districts as well. There are only three employees at the shelter including her, as well as two lawyers who assist as legal advisors or in some cases, as mediators.
The greatest challenges for Alpakalin Sewa Kendra surround their limitations in what services they can provide. The funds provided from the Women and Children’s Office to run the shelter is barely sufficient. Victims who come seeking assistance are only permitted to stay for a maximum of 45 days, which means women may need to leave before they have a sufficient plan for safety as well as legal resolution. This causes women to seek mediation with their abusers, who are often their husbands or family members, when legal action would be more appropriate. Additionally, when courts do not rule in favor of the individual seeking retribution, the victims become very upset and do not want to try to appeal or pursue the case further. Additionally, the center does not have the resources to provide skills trainings or help women find employment, so victims face financial problems when they return to the village and are lacking spousal support.
On a more frightening note, Ms. Thapa Chetri and other employees of the shelter have received threats from men in the local community, sometimes even before women arrive. They have had to move the shelter to a more private location, and on one occasion, men entered and vandalized the office, ripping down the center’s sign and trying to destroy office furniture. Fortunately, Ms. Thapa Chetri noted that the local police department responded very quickly in this instance, as well as in other cases of threats towards themselves or women seeking help. The police department also is very helpful in referring women to the shelter who they feel may benefit from the services. Women often come to the shelter voluntarily due to the shelter’s strong reputation for assisting victims.
GBV Issues Across Nepal: Data from INSEC
In Pokhara, Nepal Monitor had the chance to meet with Tanka Khanal, a documentation and dissemination officer for INSEC in the Western Region of Nepal. INSEC monitors human rights violations throughout Nepal and provides emergency support to victims, as well as education and advocacy on human rights issues. Mr. Khanal noted that most of the cases in the Western region of Nepal are cases of domestic violence, rape and attempted rape, and sexual abuse. INSEC works to monitor the cases, maintain statistics, and also keep track of whether victims have received justice or not. In 2014, INSEC documented 4,748 female who experienced violence, an increase from 2013. Mr. Khanal informed us that there were more cases of violence against women in the Mid-Western and Central region, then followed by the Western region. He also stated that the most cases of domestic violence come from the Terai. He said that it is also difficult to learn of cases in the mountain areas, due to inaccessibility, but also that many issues are resolved at the community level instead of via legal recourse
How Can Nepal Eliminate GBV?
While Mr. Khanal and Ms. Thapa Chetri work with individuals after they’ve experienced abuse, what can be done in the ways of prevention so women and children may never have to go through such traumatizing situations? Mr. Khanal noted the government needs to implement and enforce laws against gender-based violence much more strictly, working with police to manage cases effectively and deterring violence due to highly-publicized repercussions. Increased awareness of laws as well as local resources is also very important for women: In the Nepal government’s 2012 study on GBV, 61% of the women surveyed were unaware of any laws existing against GBV, and only one quarter were aware of any services available to survivors of violence. Women going through such difficult circumstances and having no knowledge of resources robs them of the chance to obtain justice, as well as regain a normal life. Lastly, Ms. Thapa Chetri also felt that survivors of GBV should have access to skills training or employment opportunities, which could help them to become more empowered to leave abusive situations instead of staying in marital or family relationships due to financial dependence.
One of the key components that needs to change for Nepal is the mindset of fear that deter women from reporting violence: The study previous cited by the government of Nepal found that 61% of the women experiencing violence did not report abuse because they found it to be embarrassing, did not expect help to be given, or were afraid of further violence. We need to look towards the future of our children by doing our part in creating an environment that does not condone violence against women, but supports them when they have the courage to report it. The people we had the pleasure of meeting with are doing just that, and the Nepal Monitor appreciates their efforts and hopes we can assist in creating awareness of GBV via this entry.
To reach Tanka Khanal:
Janapriya marga, Pokhara 8, Kaski.
Mobile: 98560 22812
To reach Sharmila Thapa Chetri:
Alpakalin Sewa Kendra (Opposite Appellate Court, Baglung Bazar)
To report GBV incidents to NepalMonitor.org:
Call or sms: 9808975502,
Use the form at: https://www.nepalmonitor.org/reports/submit