KATHMANDU: At a time when the country is busy celebrating the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a woman, probably 20 years old, reached at the Women and Children Service Center Kalimati, pleading for justice. Lean and thin body shadowed by the long unkempt hair, carrying a new-born in her hand, started her grief.
This woman hailing from Sindhupalchowk, despite taking to an arranged marriage with the person of her own village whom her parents knew well, was there to report the story of torture, oppression and deceit she was subject to for months.
Like a girl in her late teens, she had dreamt of a man who would not only share her dream but guide her to live an independent life, the life of glory and self-reliance.
When the man was proposed by her parents she did not object it all. Her dreams were shattered when her angel, her messiah, and the special man she expected to be after the marriage became the source of anguish and suffering.
Her husband not only bullied and tortured her at drunken frenzy every night but also turned her life hell. She was shocked to hear that her husband was also married to another woman. She had been to the cell to report against him.
“When I came here, I felt I was alone and helpless; I was not still sure whether I could share my story,” said Anjana (name changed for anonymity). “But, after coming here, I realized I was one of the victims and there are many people like me,” she took a sigh of relief.
Anjana, who had come there with her new-born baby and her sister, was relieved to see others also in similar condition. She hoped to gain some energy to fight against injustice.
Anjana had come to the Center at Kalimati to lodge a complaint against her husband who not only drank and tortured her but also made her life hell through continuous brutality.
When Anjana reached the cell to report against her husband’s second marriage, which she discovered later, she was taken aback to see that the Center was full of many women like her who were there to narrate their heart-rending stories of domestic violence.
The crowd in the Kalimati center mirrors the level of domestic violence prevalent in the country.
The violence against women is increasing day by day. The girls and women are getting less safe day by day. Trafficking of girls for sex work is an aggravating problem.
Formerly limited to large cities in the country and few Indian towns, the trafficking in different guise is expanded to other countries of the world.
Trafficking in Persons Report 2011 Country Narratives, published in 2011 by the US State Department mentioned Malaysia, Saudia Arabia, Hong Kong, Russia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and the other Gulf States as some of such countries Nepali girls and women are trafficked.
Other forms of violence include violence related to dowry, child- marriage, female infanticide, witchcraft accusations, widow abuse, polygamy, Chhaupadi, Badi, Deuki, Jhuma, and Kamalari.
Despite many plans and projects put forward by the government, the instances of violence are still much common.
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based violence is launched by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen every year. However, instances of violence do not seem to be declining.
This year the campaign has been expanded to the provinces as well.
While the 16 Days campaign is going on, a woman in Baitadi was manhandled in charge of witchcraft on Saturday. Uttara Dhungal, 40, was not only belittled and harassed had to be rushed to District hospital for treatment when her own brother-in-law led the inhumane and cruel act of torturing.
Parbati Budha Rawat of Baitadi died in Chhaupadi on Monday only.
Such cases are still on the rise. Sources believe that there are many more cases.
When asked about the mounting frequency of such shameful act the officials in the ministry are there with same ‘ready-made answers.’
Chandra Kumar Ghimire, the Secretary at the Ministry for Women, Children and Senior Citizens, confesses the problem and remarks, “It’s really challenging to free the society violence-free.”
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based violence is launched by the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen every year, this year the UN has set ‘Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!’ as its global slogan to eliminate Gender-Based violence globally.
What’s going on in the 16 Day Campaign?
The Ministry for Women, Children and Senior Citizen has made stated that the campaign shall include the activities against domestic violence, violence induced by superstition and stigma, violence-related with foreign employment, violence prevalent in the entertainment sector, violence in work-place and the violence induced by the abuse of social media.
According to the sources, this campaign will include violence in the political sector, public places and instances of acid attack. This 16-day campaign initiated from provinces will reach to local levels.
Recently, on November 27, in his address at the Ministerial Conference of Asia-Pacific on BPfA+25, Review Bankok, Ghimire mentioned the patriarchal mindset, harmful social practices, superstition and stigma as the main challenges in the mission of gender equality in Nepal.
It is said that low institutional capacity and inadequate resources also led to poor achievement.
National Action Plan at each local level
As part of the preparation to observe the Year for violence against women, the Ministry had made its action plan public recently. The action plan had asked all province government and local governments to plan the strategy to address the violence against women.
Ghimire, the Secretary at the Ministry informed Khabarhub that the campaign to build a society free from violence against women would continue throughout the year.
Claiming that province government, local levels, teens’ network, district development committee and various federations are mobilized to sensitize the issue, he further says, “The local levels take it to the concerned communities and everyone’s concern should be to make their society and communities free from violence against women.”
Ghimire told Khabarhub that the objective of the action plan was actually to encourage the province and local levels to be the stakeholders of sensitizing campaigns and work for the betterment of their community. “We have sent the action plan so that the program keeps ongoing throughout the year and not get confined to 16 days.”
Violence against women on the rise every year
The government has been handling such programs with the objective of eliminating the instances of violence against women; however, the programs have not born the desired result.
The data provided by the Nepal Police show that the incidents of violence are on the rise every year.
In 2074/75 1,480 cases of rape, 308 cases of human trafficking, 602 cases of polygamy and 62 cases of child marriage were recorded in the police. Similarly, 12225 domestic violence and 48 witchcraft-related cases came to police notice.
The data of 2075/76 show the hike with 2233 rapes, 247 human traffickings, 23 abortion, 1002 polygamy, 87 child marriage, 14777 domestic violence and 45 cases related to witchcraft.
Thus, the police data reveal that the issue needs a better address.
Making violence-free nation a great challenge yet
When asked why the campaign failed to bear any fruit, Ghimire, the Secretary at the ministry, confessed, “It’s challenging to make the society free from such violence as factors like patriarchal attitude, discriminatory beliefs and the social structure as it is hinder the pace towards that direction.”
However, he is optimistic that campaigns like this can help overcome stigma gradually. He regarded new constitutional provisions as positive saying, “All laws, policies and constitutional provisions made these days are progressive, we have ensured 41 percent and 33 percent representation of women in local level and federal level; this has boosted the morale of women and will surely make positive impact in the days to come.”
He hoped the campaign to sensitize the issue and minimize the violence even if it may fail to eliminate the violence at once.