We are celebrating time to fight violence against women by organizing various programs. At a time when large number of Nepalese women are still facing many social and legal discriminations, organizing programs alone is not enough. Women working in various areas including media, politics and social organizations need to come together to take the issue more seriously.
Despite reforming and bringing the new laws, over seventy percent of women are still experiencing violence in their lifetime in Nepal. Such violence must be stopped. It is not possible to end the violence against women just by organizing rallies and organizing programs in the urban areas. Civil society organizations and women organizations must go to the villages where overwhelming majority of women are facing one or other kinds of violence.
We have law against domestic violence with strict punishment measures against the guilty. There are specified provisions of punishment, which include fine, imprisonment or both against the guilty.
Our system has recognized physical, mental, sexual and economic torture within a family relation as domestic violence. Scolding or hurting a family member from another is also included in domestic violence. Our laws define the family relation on the basis of inheritance, marriage, religion, or siblings or member of joint family or members living in a family as workers. Beating, hurting physically, keeping in detention, involving knowingly in any work which may hurt physically, intimidation, labeling fake charge, driving away from home, discrimination on the basis of ideology, religion, culture and custom are regarded as crime. It is unfortunate that we are unable to protect the rights of women.
The women are living in a terrible situation even in the 21st century because of dowry system, not giving birth to a son, charge of witch and other superstitions. Some of them even cause the death of women. We have made several efforts for women to end different kinds of suppression and discriminations. The present situation is our struggle of more than four decades.
As women organizations and activists around the world have been celebrating November 25th as an International day to end Violence against Women, Nepalese too are celebrating it. We have denounced gender based violence, rape and sexual harassment, state violence including torture, abuse of female political prisoners and violent assassination of activists.
One of the aims of the recent 16 days activism against Gender Violence Campaign was initiated in 1991 and Nepal is also observing it. 16 Days campaign is a platform for women activists from around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and advocate for women’s right to live in equality.
Although we have won many battles in the struggle to establish our rights, women in Nepal have a long way to go before gaining equal rights. For instance, the sexual harassment bill which is still in the parliament and it needs to pass so that the level of violence can be reduced. Similarly, women should be given proper representation in the political affairs, including in the parliament. Despite the change in the number of women in politics, there is still inequality.
Nepal is in the process of transformation from conflict to peace. After a decade long conflict, Nepal is undergoing a transitional period. People’s mindset and behavior is becoming more aggressive and violent. The weaker section of the society are facing various crimes. Violence against women is a manifestation of unequal power relations between women and men. In the present context, celebrating 16 days campaign to eliminate violence against women is important in order to make stakeholders aware and strengthen the capacity of women to be able to claim their rights.
(Bushal is a CA member)