KATHMANDU, Jan 2: She suffers. She’s been abused. She’s been violated.
It doesn’t matter what her name was, where she lived or what she did for a living. What matters is that she was assaulted upon, abused, raped, and even murdered. She was a woman. She was one of the 152 killed, 211 raped, 23 raped by family members, 75 who were alleged to be witches, and 12 who committed suicide. Some 16 women have been murdered in the Nepali month of Mangsir alone. She’s of the 40% who have surfaced as a statistic of women suffering from one or the other form of violence in Nepal.
Be it commuting on public transportation or at workplace or even in our own neighborhood, it’s been proven time and again that women aren’t safe.
The woman who was robbed by the immigration officials at the Tribhuvan International Airport and then raped by a police constable, the 18-year-old from Bara who was burnt to death, the woman who was beaten up by her brothers for wanting to walk out of an unhappy marriage – these are just a few realities that women in Nepal have had to go through.
Amongst the activists who have gathered in front of Baluwatar for the now weeklong non-violent protest against gender-based violence, Founder of Advocacy Forum (Nepal), Mandira Sharma, is one of them.
“We aren’t safe in our homes, on the bus, or at the organs of the state. The state itself protects criminals and has lost its sense of duty,” says Sharma when asked what she thinks are the main causes of the increased violence against women. “To get justice on one single case, we’ve to come to the streets,” she continues.
The laws regarding violence against women are still weak in Nepal, shares Sharma. However, more than the severity of punishment, she says that it’s the certainty of fair investigation, prosecution and accountability that the state provides that will help curb these crimes.
Another activist, Pranika Koyu, says, “Gender-based violence has become an everyday story for every girl around the world. What’s different in Nepal is that if you want to raise voice against this or get help, there’s hardly a support mechanism.”
A woman neither gets support from her family nor is the state mechanism friendly to the public. “The passive and insensitive protection mechanism discourages victims,” she adds. “Therefore, it’s high time we spoke against this.”
Koyu further says that regardless of a person’s background or profession, the person should be given justice. “Justice denied is injustice itself,” she says, emphasizing on the need for the protective state organs to give more importance to what has happened to a person rather than being bothered about that person’s family or profession background.
When it comes to bringing an end to violence against women in Nepal, Bandana Rana, President of SAATHI, an NGO working to remove injustice and violence against women and children in Nepal, shares that laws and policies are important but, at this point of time, there’s a need to reform attitudes and mindset.
“For the past two decades, we’ve been advocating for law reforms, policies and regulations. But at this point of time, I feel the need to emphasize on the change of the inner mindset of the patriarchal society that we live in,” says Rana.
She cites an example of the difference in how female and male children are raised in the family. “We tell our young girls not to behave in certain ways or dress in certain ways, ‘not do this and to do that.’ But when it comes to young boys, I’ve heard conversations where adults laugh it off when their young boys speak about teasing their girlfriends,” shares Rana, adding that rather than placing restrictions on girls for their safety, adults should teach young sons to respect girls and treat them as equals.
A change in the existing laws are important, yes, says Rana, but the patriarchal way of thinking, primarily, requires reforms. Like Rana says, “Change has to start from each household.”
Don’t stay silent. A group of independent, proactive citizens and those who won’t tolerate violence against women any longer will be conducting a sit-in, signature and awareness campaign. Join the movement.
Venue: In front of Gate No 3 of The Prime Minister’s Residence at Baluwatar (opposite Nepal Rastra Bank)
Time: 9 to 11 am