Violence against women on the rise in Province 2

Kamalesh Thakur

December 31, 2020


Violence against women on the rise in Province 2

JANAKPURDHAM: Even though incidents of gender discrimination are on the rise across the country, such instances are relatively high in Province-2 as women victims do not get justice.

Their hopes of getting justice from the Province-2 government are slim.

Incident 1: “Witch” mother murdered

Ten years ago, Manisha, wife of Ram Avtar Sah of Karjanha Municipality-3 of Siraha, sustained injuries to her leg. She received treatment at a local health post in the village but did not recover.

Ram Avtar’s mother and Manisha’s mother-in-law, 75-year-old Sudamadevi Sah is a witch doctor (Jhakri).

On October 30, Ramautar requested his mother to help her to heal his wife’s wound. Sudama, however, refused to flinch as she was not on good terms with her son, Ram Avtar.

Meanwhile, some villagers and Manisha’s mother started to incite Ram Avtar by accusing his mother of being a witch. Ram Avtar approached his mother again to heal the wounds through traditional treatment. Sudama, however, disagreed.

In a fit of rage, Ram Avtar thrashed his mother. Sudama, a mother of four children — two sons and two daughters — breathed her last on October 31 on the way to the provincial hospital in Janakpur after her treatment was not possible at the local health post.

Police rescued two young women from Daulatpur-3 of Saptari district on September 30 when they were being trafficked by a gang through Sunsari’s Bhantabari area.

Sudama was living all alone in her house for the last five years after her daughter’s marriage.

Police have, meanwhile, arrested Ram Avtar on the day of the incident.

“Ram Avtar has been arrested. Action has been taken against him,” Siraha Superintendent of Police Uma Shankar Prasad Paziyar said. “We have launched a further investigation into the incident,” he added.

Incident 2: Human Trafficking

Police rescued two young women from Daulatpur-3 of Saptari district on September 30 when they were being trafficked by a gang through Sunsari’s Bhantabari area.

Two persons, including a relative of the 19-year-old and 22-year-old girl, were arrested while they were taking the girls to India.

Police arrested Mohammad Sahil Mansuri, 29, of Saptari Krishna Sawaran Village Municipality-4 Banauli and Jiwan Kumar Sah, 29, of Siraha Lahan Municipality-19 acting on a tip-off.

Incident 3: Dowry more powerful than love

Rambabu Mandal, 21, of Lahan Municipality-22 Siswani Barchhawa fell in love with a 21-year-old girl of the same village.

Their parents caught them on a late-night of August 19. A Panchayat (meeting of influential people) settled the issue in the village and convinced the couple to tie their knot.

The boy’s father, meanwhile, asked for a dowry while the girl’s denied saying that he had nothing to give as dowry. Things then went awry on both sides.

On September 9, the Panchayat decided to send the case to the police administration.

Based on this, the girl’s father lodged a complaint at the Area Police Office, Lahan on September 11 alleging the boy of an attempt to rape. The boy then fled the village.

Incident 4: Deserting pregnant girlfriend and absconding

A 20-year-old girl from Jaleshwor, Mahottari, passed her SEE in 2073 BS from a local school. She then enrolled at the NASA International College in Kathmandu to study Bachelor in Hotel Management (BHM). In the first year, she could not obtain the marks as expected by her parents. The next year, she was admitted to the Rajarshi Janak Campus in Janakpur with the consent of her family.

A friend who lives in the same room in Kathmandu introduced her to Shivraj of Kshireshwornath Municipality-5, Dhanusha. The two, who used to have a casual conversation, then became friends on Facebook. The two fell in love while talking on the phone.

She lamented with tears welling up in her eyes before the police but to no avail. The police sent her back home under the pretext of Coronavirus.

Their love deepened with the flow of time. They had their first sexual intercourse on the day of “Bibaha Panchami” 2076 BS. According to the girl, she stayed at Shivaraj’s house in Janakpur for a month on the pretext of not getting a room. The two then had sexual intercourse as per their wishes.

In the month of Poush, the girl realized that she was pregnant. And when she called Shivraj to inform him about her pregnancy, the latter asked her to abort. The girl refused to do so arguing that since the baby was the first sign of their love, she would give birth to it.

Since then Shivraj has been out of touch. The girl gave birth to a son on August 21 under the care of a charity organization. Chief Superintendent of Police Ramesh Kumar Basnet of the District Police Office, Dhanusha said that a complaint has been registered with the police. According to the police, the boy has gone into hiding in India and his search is on.

Incident 5: Continuous torture after the birth of daughters

Narayan Jha and Ranjan Devi of Saptakoshi Municipality-4, Balardaha tied their knots some eight years ago.

After a year-and-a-half of marriage, Ranjana gave birth to a daughter. She then gave birth to three daughters in the hope of having a son for the sake of the family. Her husband Narayan and mother-in-law Bidotmadevi started torturing her for giving birth to daughters.

Unable to endure the continued torture by her husband, Ranjana Devi reached the District Police Office seeking justice on October 5.

She lamented with tears welling up in her eyes before the police but to no avail. The police sent her back home under the pretext of Coronavirus.

Ranjan’s first pregnancy was wasted after her husband pushed her realizing that it was a daughter in her womb. Then she gave birth to three daughters in a row. The daughters are now six, four-and-a-half and a two-years-old. “Do I have any fault?” she asked, adding “My mother-in-law had even tried to murder me with an axe when I gave birth to my third daughter.”

Ranjana filed a petition at the Saptari District Court on October 8. However, she is not very optimistic about getting justice from the court as there, too, can be manipulated.

Incident 6: Superstitious people’s representatives

On September 19, the village leaders called a Panchayat (local meeting of influential people) at the Shiva temple at Kursandi in Nawarajpur Gaonpalika-5 of Siraha. The Panchayat was called to punish the culprit as the daughter of local Dharmanath Yadav was sick. Earlier, a jhankri (witch doctor) from the bordering Indian village of Toriyahi had branded a local female Murti Devi as a witch. The Panchayat was called to punish her and establish “happiness and peace” in the village.

Murti Devi’s husband Ram Narayan Yadav was taken to the Panchayat by two villagers where he was asked to make a statement that his wife Murti Devi was a witch. He, however, refused to do so.

Locals, including people’s representatives, then thrashed Murti Devi in front of the villagers, and compelled her to consume excrement, dissolved in a bottle when she had already fainted. Murti Devi’s family members said, Ram Udgar Yadav, ward member of Nawarajpur-5, was also involved in the brutal act.

The victim’s family has accused the ward chairperson of silently supporting the perpetrators despite the violence against women in his presence.

Incident 7: Police do not take complaints

Devaki Devi Sahani, 70, of Hathmunda in Kamala Municipality-7 of Dhanusha was thrashed by seven neighbors on September 15 accusing her of being a witch. Local Birju Sahani’s father Shanichar Sahani was a blood cancer patient.

Mantutiya Devi Sahani, 55, Pravesh Sahani, 35, Pradip Sahani, 25, Rina Sahani, 18, Anjila Sahani, 18, and Pradip’s 25-year-old wife thrashed Devaki accusing her of spelling bad omen on Shanichar.

Devaki complained that the locals even tried to feed her cow dung. The victim has not lodged a complaint with the police. Dhanusha Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mahendra Kumar Mishra confirmed that no complaint has been registered so far. According to the victim’s family, the District Police Office, Dhanusha had asked them to hold a discussion at the Area Police Office. The victim’s family has not gone to the area police fearing intervention from the village Panchayat.

Incident 8: Police freeing culprits

On May 23, a 40-year-old Srijana Devi Mahato of Mithila Municipality-3, Dhanusha was thrashed by locals Vijay Mahato and Savita Devi Mahato accusing her of carrying out witchcraft.

On the same day, she went to the Area Police Office, Dhalkebar to lodge a complaint. According to Bina Kadari, a women’s rights activist, the police did not register her complaint citing the coronavirus epidemic.

According to her, injured Srijana was treated at Bhogendra Mahato’s clinic in Dhalkebar.

As many as 140 cases were filed in the Judicial Committee in the last fiscal year. Sources said even though 100 percent of the cases were settled, 30 percent of the complainants opted for the police and the court as the decisions made by the judicial committee were made on a cadre-based approach.

Inspector Tirtha Raj Karki of the Area Police Office Dhalkebar said that the victim had come to lodge a complaint but was sent back as the area did not belong to his jurisdiction.

Police let culprits walk free culprit by not registering victims’ complaints.

Activist-oriented decisions at the local level

Section 17 and 18 of the Constitution of Nepal has a provision of local executive, local legislature and judicial committee.

Accordingly, local executive, local legislature and judicial committees were constituted in all the 753 local levels after the local elections.

A three-member Judicial Committee under the coordination of Rita Kumari Mishra, deputy chief of Janakpur sub-municipality has been formed at the municipality with ward-22 chairperson Shivaratna Pandey and member Digambar Sah as executive members of the committee. The Judicial Committee started to work formally on April 22, 2018.

As many as 140 cases were filed in the Judicial Committee in the last fiscal year. Sources said even though 100 percent of the cases were settled, 30 percent of the complainants opted for the police and the court as the decisions made by the judicial committee were made on a cadre-based approach.

According to Mishra, the Judicial Committee has been formed in the Janakpur sub-metropolis as per the provisions of the Constitution. She said that the committee formed in accordance with Article 46 of the Local Government Operation Act 2074 BS has been giving its services to the people.

Coordinator Mishra, however, admits that the implementation of the decision has not been effective due to lack of skilled manpower, lack of cooperation and coordination among stakeholders.

Mishra said that no complaints were lodged during the lockdown. “The Judicial Committee operates as per the court’s order,” she said. That’s why we didn’t register any complaints during the lockdown due to the fear of coronavirus.”

All hopes on State government

In January 2019, the Province-2 government launched the “Save Daughter, Educate Daughter” campaign with the objective of ending violence against women. The campaign includes programs such as bicycle distribution, daughter’s insurance and self-defense training to protect female students from violence.

Chief Minister of Province 2, Lal Babu Raut asserted that the government introduced the program with an aim to empower girls and women. He said that the campaign would help eradicate the tendency of not educating daughters, discouraging child marriage and domestic violence. “Newly-born daughters of Province 2 will get Rs 300,000,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government distributed bicycles to 14,000 girls under the program. Since the start of the campaign, bicycles have been distributed to as many as 14,000 students studying in class VIII in all the eight districts of Province-2.

According to the Chief Minister’s Office, the highest number of 2,457 bicycles was distributed in Sarlahi and the lowest was 1,048 in Rautahat.

Under the bicycle distribution program, bicycles have been distributed to 1,535 girls from 29 schools in the Saptari district, 1,616 girls from 25 schools in Siraha, 1,785 girls from 32 schools in Dhanusha and 1,870 girls from 31 schools in Mahottari.

Likewise, the state government also distributed bicycles to 2,457 girls from 42 schools in Sarlahi, 1,408 girls from 28 schools in Rautahat, 1,675 girls from 26 schools in Bara and 1,654 girls from 27 schools in Parsa.

According to Priyanka Yadav, coordinator of the “Save Daughter, Educate Daughter” program, bicycle distribution and daughter’s education insurance have been quite successful. As many as 17,000 daughters have also been insured under this program.

Lack of proper implementation of law

Attorney General of Province 2, Dipendra Jha argues that crime in the province has increased as the perpetrators were left unpunished as per the Domestic Violence (Fault and Punishment) Act, 2066 BS.

He said that the crime has aggravated as perpetrators were acquitted after discussion despite complaints being lodged at the police office.

“Even if the victims go to courts, perpetrators are released on bail,” he said, adding. “This has failed to ensure an environment of justice. When victims do not get justice, their morale decreases while the morale of the perpetrators’ increases and tend to commit more violence.”

Raju Paswan, the coordinator of Informal Service Center (INSEC) Province 2, says that the graph of violence has risen due to fear of the society, worries about the future and lack of faith in getting justice easily.

He said that only the poor, destitute and Dalits are found to be getting the punishment. Therefore, strict laws are needed to discourage instances of violence.

Three hundred incidents during lockdown

The statistics of heinous crimes such as violence against women and rape have revealed a frightening situation in the country. The situation in Province 2 looks more critical than in other provinces. According to the state police, there have been about 300 incidents of violence against women during the lockdown period.

The highest number of 197 cases of rape, 48 cases of attempts to rape, 4 cases of child marriage and 13 cases of witchcraft have been registered during the period. Most of the incidents are said to have been settled because of fear, temptation and so-called social prestige before the police come to the scene.

Domestic violence has been viewed as a “normal occurrence” by the police and society. As domestic violence increases, so do suicides and heinous crimes. Province-2 Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Dhiraj Pratap Singh said that more than 95 percent of the crimes were committed by male perpetrators. He refers to political pressure as another major problem.

According to him, the victims do not receive the justice due to the trend of conciliation in local courts.

In several places of Province 2, locals hold Panchayats to cover up the incidents of violence against women without the knowledge of the government authorities. Police, meanwhile, arrest them (Panchayat members) after the incident becomes public. Although the state and local levels have introduced programs to reduce violence against women, the implementation has not been quite effective.

Need for a common strategy

Gyanendra Yadav, Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of Province 2 said that the crimes such as gender-based violence were being perpetrated due to the age-old social discrimination and ineffective participation of the target group in public services.

He said that social discrimination and superstition cannot be eradicated all of a sudden. However, efforts have been made to discourage such superstitions.

“Law is being drafted to provide 50 percent reservation for women in government service. Since last year, we also brought programs such as “Safe Daughter Campaign”, “Teach Daughter-Save Daughter”, adding, “We are confident that the positive results of such campaigns will be seen within a few years.”

Minister Yadav said that all state and local governments can move forward by formulating a common strategy against such crimes. He emphasized that there should be no political patronage in such social crimes and violence against women.

According to him, it is not easy to end social discrimination and misconceptions unless women’s participation in development, employment, opportunities and political and productive sectors increases.