Nepal fails to prevent women and girls from violence

By Laxman Datt Pant

Nepal fails to prevent women and girls from violence

Although stakeholders, including the United Nations in Nepal, are today marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW) and the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign, under the 2020 global theme: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!”, authorities have failed to implement existing laws that prevent women and girls from facing violence of all types.

The constitution of Nepal ensures women’s rights and gender equality in principle stating that the political parties have to ensure that at least one-third of their total representation is women. However, women’s status remains low in terms of the control of resources and political decision making resulting in an increased number of acts of violence against women and girls every year. Over the years, particularly during the last decade, Nepal has introduced fairly progressive legal and policy reforms to protect women and girls from violence.

Unfortunately, the increased cases of assaults, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and harmful practices against women have drawn the attention of individuals and organizations in the present times. Reports and observations show that there have been many brutal cases when women and girls have been victimized, attacked, raped, assaulted, traumatized, and tortured across the country. The attackers and perpetrators of crimes against women are rarely punished through the implementing of existing laws.

So far, Nepal has ratified 23 international human rights instruments that include international conventions, covenants, and declarations regarding women such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action, and UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR 1325 and 1820). Nepal also remains committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals regarding gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5) and reducing inequalities (SDG 10). Regrettably, the country has not been able to effectively implement neither instruments nor its obligations to promote gender equality and prevent women and girls from facing all kinds of violence.

A six-year-old girl in the district of Mahottari in southeastern Nepal was reportedly raped and killed by 25-year-old Arun Kumar Sah on the evening of November 23. According to the police, Sah had been arrested on charges of killing Dilip Thakur some seven months earlier and was released on bail about a month ago. This is an example of how impunity allows perpetrators to continue to commit crimes.

According to a report titled “Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Diagnostic of Selected Sectors in Nepal” published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in October this year:

  • About 22% of women in Nepal (aged 15 to 49) have experienced physical violence since the age of 15
  • 26% of married women have experienced spousal physical, sexual, or emotional violence
  • 66% of women who experienced any type of physical or sexual violence have not sought any help or talked to anyone about resisting or stopping the violence
  • Approximately 30% of women and 23% of men agree that wife-beating is justified under specific circumstances

A report released last month by the Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) states that:

  • Nepal has recorded a total of 1,673 cases of VAW in the past six months
  • More than 90% of such cases were committed by close relatives of the victims
  • As many as 283 rape victims were girls below the age of 18 years including 39 aged from 2 to 10 and 244 aged between 11 to 18 years old
  • A total of 161 of those accused of rape were found to be the victims’ neighbors, 53 were family members, 23 love partners, four teachers, eight service providers, and 25 strangers

Meanwhile, issuing the statement today, the United Nations (UN) in Nepal has stated that in Nepal where, even before the crisis, national statistics painted a grim picture of the prevalence of violence against women and girls in the country, emerging data, and reports from actors on the front line indicate that violence has intensified. This year’s campaign highlights the vulnerabilities faced by women and girls and sexual and gender minorities, particularly those already marginalized and exposed to greater risks as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the statement added.

At the same time, the UN in Nepal has also called for actions to be prioritized and adopted to address women’s needs and to ensure that collective response and recovery efforts uphold their rights, including their right to live a life free from violence. Every survivor of GBV – wherever she/they live – must be able to receive the full range of care she/they need and deserve, including urgent medical attention and access to follow-up health services, psychosocial care, protection and justice services, and these services must be informed by continuous data collection to improve delivery and safety standards, the statement reads.