The fight against violence

Nepal, along with other countries, is celebrating 16-day activism to end violence against women. On the occasion of the Global 16-day activism, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MoWCSW) in collaboration with UN Women appointed three male leaders to represent them.

President of Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Shesh Ghale, Actor Rajesh Hamal and Captain of National Cricket Team Paras Khadka were appointed to raise awareness about domestic violence and help curb the cases of violence against women in the country.

The participation of male leaders in eliminating violence against women for equal society is definitely praiseworthy. Their active involvement to this cause can bring changes in the attitude of people, mainly the patriarchal values, and we can use this as a unique opportunity to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls.

However, we shouldn't overlook the fact that cases of domestic violence in the country are increasing every year. Nepal has adopted enough national laws and is a signatory member of many international conventions but due to slack implementation of those laws and policies, the cases of violence continue to rise.

A data from Nepal Police suggests that 8, 268 women faced various forms of domestic violence in the fiscal year 2014/ 15. 6,835 cases were registered in 2013/14 while only 1,800 cases of domestic violence were registered in 2012/13.

Most of the women were verbally abused by their partners along with physical violence. Women were tortured by not being given food, clothes and kicked out of the house, the record suggests.

On the other hand, the existing laws are not efficient enough to work on the root causes of violence against women though they can provide justice to the victimized women to some extent. This means that the laws and policies we have adopted can't empower women economically and provide them social security.

We can take Workplace Sexual Harassment Control Act 2014 as an instance. The act, introduced after 11 years of rigorous struggle, is extremely problematic during implementation. Only women working in government offices, full or semi-governmental organizations or companies are addressed by this law. It doesn't include women working in informal sector workplaces. It also has a provision of collecting evidence in order to file complaints against the perpetrators which is ridiculously impractical.

Sociologist Dr Meena Poudel said that gender-related laws haven't addressed the structural factors that are causing violence in the society. "We have ample laws related to equality and gender but there is no single law that can address the root cause of the problems of violence against women," she said. She also added that economic independency, access to family, community and public resources and social protection to female can help decrease violence against women.

A United Nations report suggests that 35 percent women and teenagers become victims of physical or sexual violence in one way or the other at least once in their life. And 7 out of 10 women are victimized sexually.

Forced marriage, trafficking, non marital partner sexual violence, domestic violence, dowry-related violence, sexual harassment in public spaces, intimate partner violence, maltreatment of widowed and divorced women and witch-craft related violence are some of the common forms of violence in Nepal.

Radhika Aryal, Joint Secretary at the MoWCSW, says that the gender gap in the sector of education enrollment, life expectancy and labor force participation is satisfactory in Nepal. She, however, said that unequal access of women and girls to economic opportunities have hindered them from enjoying their full rights.

Due to the deep-rooted patriarchal values, social construct and economic dependence, women are not being able to exercise their rights. Under many circumstances, women face various forms of violence. We have formulated several polices to curb the cases of violence against women but violence-free and equal society seems a distant dream unless we can bring changes in the patriarchal values and eradicate social ills such as child marriage, forced marriage, dowry system, mistreatment of widows and divorces and also the chaupadi tradition.

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