Poverty and discrimination-key trigger of rising GBV in the third country, the case of Nepal
In Nepal’s context, women are more likely to face different forms of violence which includes: domestic violence, sexual abuse and torture, rape, sexual harassment, women trafficking, dowry, mental torture, verbal abuse, gender discrimination, child marriage, polygamy, polyandry due to social custom and prejudices that undermine equal status and opportunities for women in public and private domain. This may be interested to reader to understand GBV issues of Nepal which are quite different from the other part of globes- it may be due to poverty, caste discrimination and other mal-practices in communities.
GBV such as rape, child marriage, polygamy etc. and women usually do not bring cases out due to their economic dependency on male members. There is culture of silence due to different socio-economic reasons. Failure in proper utilization of money and its implication, maximum use of alcohol by male members fuel the incidences. Children are psychologically affected highly in the houses where there is tension within the family. Adolescent girls and boys normally are not able to share their problems. In case shared but not heard, they will feel hurt, sometime children living with grandparents are found clashing with each other due to huge generation gaps and lack of understanding amongst them. If boys and girls feel weak in their studies, they are also likely to attempt suicide. Similarly inter-caste marriage clues family and social clash which sometimes can be reason for the suicide. Sex-selective abortion (Male priority) is expressly prohibited in Nepal, but limited evidence suggests that it occurs nevertheless. There is trend of abortion after sex identification. It has huge impact to children.
Patriarchal society, hard to reach geographical pattern, superstitious belief, mal-practices, extreme poverty, lack of education and awareness are key cause of violence. There are people in community who even do not know about violence and way how they can protect from violence. The services from the service providers are not well known by victims and the services do not have the good quality to address all sorts of issues. There is situation where the victims are further victimized while trying to seek justice. The capacity and willingness of staff of the service providing organization is not adequate. There may be increasing violence in society but trend to complain in respective agencies is very low due to culture of silence.
A. GBV and complexities, some scenarios from field
a) Person undergone child marriage and having domestic violence:
There are both practices such as an arranged marriage by their parents in childhood and another is boys and girls who are below 18/20 leave their house and stay somewhere outside for some time. Once a girl is pregnant, it is not possible to separate them. There is no adequate awareness regarding child marriage and its impact to their family life. They marry without knowing what marriage is. Marriage in early age is impersonation from others in their surroundings. If the cases come to police, police take video record of the explanations and commitment from their parents and from boys and girls for separation. But it does not last for long time; there is trend of reunion of boys and girls. There is no social as well as legal provision of living togetherness in Nepal.
Maya (Name Changed) of Bajhang district came to district police office looking for support. She is 32 years old and was married at the age of 9. During her marriage her husband was 7 years old. Her husband married with another girl and they are living together throwing her out from their house. She has been in a parental house for 12 years. She has no children. She came to district police office to understand how she will get justice. She wants some property from her husband and wants to divorce. She is not willing to file case to her husband in regards of polygamy. She is very poor and do not know any legal procedure. She was inquiring police personnel on how she will get justice so that she could live rest of her life in the community with respect and dignity.
Rita (So called lower caste, name changed), 35 years old lady is from Rolpa district. She has 6 children. She married at the age of 13. Her husband used to work in India for solving hand to mouth problem of their family. She was raped by her brother in law. He is now in jail. Her husband has accepted but always beating her. Her husband is a drunkard, so poor Rita is having much hardship to rear her children. If she gets food for the morning, there is still uncertainty about food for evening.
b) Second or third marriage by male with child girl
Traditional community celebration (Mela) is one of the major reasons of child marriage in Bajhang district. ‘Mela’ starts in September and lasts for 3 months. Mela is famous for gathering people in a particular area, i.e., temple, bazaar etc. It will be enjoyed in different places of district during this time differently. Generally it is celebrated in night time. The main charm of Mela is drinking alcohol, dancing together with traditional singing. People much enjoy local alcohol which is prepared using rice, maize, millet and wheat which are major source of food in local areas. This might go on to be a main cause of food scarcity in district. Police during this period need to have high attention and their effective presence is very important to maintain security. The number of police personnel is not appropriate in difficult geography. Boys, girls including adolescent boys and girls go for the Mela. There is an always high chance of second or third marriage by male with child girl.
c) Child marriage, reproductive health issues (Such as UTI, Uterus Prolaps etc.) and preference of second marriage by male
18 years Shiwani Badi(From so called lowest caste group)of Surkhet district wants divorce from her husband. She is SLC graduate. There are no any girls in Badi community who has passed SLC in that locality. She did “love marriage” in the age of 16 with a 17 years old boy. She went for preparation of an exam in neighboring district. A boy running his own tailoring business trapped her for marriage. He had promised to her to continue her education but he did not follow it. Instead, he used to show her porn video and compel her to act as in video. If she refused, he would beat her. She has lost 2 months fetus. Now she is suffering problems in uterus/ovary. Her husband did not give money for her health checkup and further medication. Her maternal family members took her to hospital for further treatment. She is taking medicines. He is usual to beating her. She had married with Dalit, but she is even discriminated from husband’s family that she belongs to the lowest caste ’Badi’. Her husband is having relation with another girl and he is not responsible to her. Hence, she wants divorce and continues her education.
d) Excessive use of alcohol and attempt to rape, rape and domestic violence
Excessive use of alcohol by male member of family, mostly by head of household/husband is one of the main causes of domestic violence. Male members are bread earner and hence house wives obviously face economic dependency at home. This gives supremacy to male members and they dominate their wives. Some of the women and girls from out of city and even from the city are establishing sexual relationships with others. Hence, house hold dispute and violence emerged.
Alcohol is a culturally sanctioned part of life in Nepal, on the one hand, and, on the other, its use is seen as pathological, having direct consequences in an individual’s family affecting women and children by way of domestic violence, poverty, debt, scarcity of food, loss of social prestige. The direct impact on family because of drink has been neglect, abuse, and malnutrition, children dropping out of school, and running away from home.
Sahamati B.K.(Name changed, so called lower caste) is daughter of Karne Kami(So called lower caste) and Iswori B.K. from Lungri Gaupalika, Rolpa district. She is 10 years old and studying in class 3. She has two younger sisters. Sahamati was raped by her father in their cow shed when he drunk. He raped her by closing her mouth. She cried and tried to escape from him but it was impossible to escape from his strong bond. After rape he gave her 100 rupees to not to disclose the incidence. But she was serious and villagers found the reality. Villagers immediately reported to the Ilaka Police Office, Sulichaur. Police caught the perpetrator and took the action. Now Karne is in jail. The story did not end with this incidence. 3 months back she got pain in her stomach. Her mother Iswori asked for lift in motorcycle to go to buy some medicines for her daughter. Iswor’s one leg got caught into the motorcycle’s wheel and it was totally destroyed. She was carried to hospital. Luckily, she lived but she lost the leg. Now she is in street, begging to look after all three girls. Iswori mentioned that her husband attempted rape to Sahamati since she was 5 years old.
Dilsara Damai(name changed, so called lower caste) is 35 years old lady from so called lower caste community in Doti district . She married at the age of15. She is now living in parent’s house with three kids. She is doing agri-labour job which is a seasonal job. Her husband is a well-known drunkard of the community. He is always disputing with his wife for the money she earns working as a labor so that he can consume more alcohol.. He is always beating her vigorously and neighbors are tired of taking her to hospital many times. She has filed the complaints to the police office. She mentioned that police should have good understanding of mediation and regular follow up with the perpetrators.
e) Economic migration and its impact to family
Anita (name changed) from Tanahu district is a 22 years old woman who has one daughter of 5 years old. Anita came to Tanahu police office for being part of interaction with us in regards of her confidence and satisfaction from the services of police she received. Initially, she was not willing to talk with anybody. Her face was sad, eyes were restless, looking somewhere far without blinking her eyes. We asked some questions from our survey checklist. She did not answer. I called her close to me and asked her about her past. She cried, and then started to talk in her crying throat. Her husband and his brother (brother-in-law) went Qatar after her marriage. She has a five year old daughter. She was separated from the joint family and was now living in a small hut. They are economically poor in their community. She was experiencing economic crisis since her husband was not sending money regularly. Her brother-in-law came to Nepal from Qatar. He used to come her house and used to ’misbehave’, as she mentioned. After this, she came to police for complaint filing. Police called the perpetrator and mediated the case. After this, brother-in-law got married. Her husband committed suicide in Qatar. Her brother-in-law now went to Qatar for accepting the dead body and receives benefits from company that is provided to the family member. Now she is having trauma and seeking justice as well.
Sun Devi Shingh(Name changed) from Kailash, Bajhang is another representative example of extreme suppression by family who is living in a very critical socio-economic condition. She married at 14 years of age. Her father in law was killed during insurgency by insurgent party. Whole responsibility of family shouldered towards her husband, inclined to migrate Iraq for earning. He was killed in Iraq in 2005. Now she has been beaten by her brother in law. She was boycotted by all family members. She was beaten seriously and hence came to the police. She filed the case in district court. The district court mediated the case without any compensation. She accepted the decision because she is living with fear that she might be killed by her brother in law if she did not follow it. If she is killed, all 3 children “will be in street”, she mentioned.
f) Polygamy related to inter-caste marriage
Hima Bhandari(Name changed) is from Tulsipur Dang. She found her life ambushed 12 years back. When she was studying in class ten, her close neighbor brothers introduced her to a person who was 27 years old. In the first meeting he proposed to go for visit jungle area, a little far from Tulsipur. She refused many time. The neighbor brother is also willing to go and enjoy as a dry picnic. It was Saturday and finally she agreed it. They stayed whole day, enjoyed talking and playing. It was getting darker and evening approached. The stranger caught her body and attempted rape in dark Jungle. The neighbor boy who was with them was disappeared. She tried to escape from him but did not succeed. He raped her first and proposed to marry her. She was not in position to decide. But stranger mentioned that he is big business person from neighboring city. He gave so many commitments and finally she agreed. After this she got twist in her life. After 3 days of their arrival in his house, she knew that she had married with the person from so called lower caste and with another wife. The message was passed on person to person and reached to her parents. They did not accept this marriage and still there is no any communication and relation with the maternal house. They have now a 10 year girl. Her husband went for the economic migration and is now back home. Hima mentioned that she has been beaten by her husband for more than 1200 times during 12 years of their married life. He is also trying to pour acid to her body. During our team visit she came from hospital to police office for registering the case and get support for divorce. Her face and body was full of wounds. Her leg was factored. When we asked about her future after divorce, she replied that she wants to see her freedom back in her life and want to establish her own business.
g) Violence against women due to giving birth to a female baby
Sukti Kumari(Name changed) of Siraha district has different concept on girl’s education. She mentioned that girl’s education is costly in boarder districts- higher the education of girls, higher the possibility of demanding huge amount of money as a dowry. Sukti Kumari has completed B.A. In order to minimize the dowry her family arranged her marriage with the guy who has just pass class ten. They had good relationship for some time. She used to teach in boarding school at their locality. Now she dropped out from her regular teaching job due to pressure from her husband and family as they have 2 daughters and Jukti has been charged that the reason of having two daughters is her fault. Jukti’s husband and family members think that Jukti has 5 sisters so that it has been inherited and she gave birth to two daughters and not a single son. Now she is not allowed to do any sort of economic activities, she has no access to money at home. She is neglected and beaten by her husband.
h) Women and girls without legal documents such as citizenship, marriage certificates, birth certificates etc.
Suhana Khatun(Name changed), 26 years old girl is regularly coming to district headquarter to seek justice in Mahottari district. She has no marriage certificate, citizenship and birth registration of her children. No one is supporting her for preparation of such documents. She was tired and still not able to get justice. Her husband married another girl and she wants property from her husband for herself and her children. But without proper documentation she is not able to register the case. She is coming to district head quarter for 1 year regularly.
i) GBV related to community reintegration of ex-combatants
Parbati Kumal(name changed) of Dhading district is illiterate ex-combatant (PLA). She is orphan. She had inter-caste marriage with PLA who is now working in Nepal Army. She did not join Nepal army, as she took volunteer retirement. Now she is with her husband’s family. She mentioned that she is struggling within the family for being part of that family. She experienced domestic violence from her brother-in-law and other family members. She is charged as a prostitute by her brother-in-law. The main cause of violence is, first she is orphan, second she was in PLA and third she has different political ideology than other family members. Now she has no direct link with her political party (Maoist party). She is not affiliated with any community based saving/credit groups and cooperatives. Parbati mentioned that there are women (mostly war wounded) in community from ex-combatant groups who are facing challenges from husband, family and community as well. She came to police office and complained against brother-in-law. Police has mediated the case. Now she is happy with police office because police has done regular follow up to perpetrator and so that she is experiencing less threat these days.
j) Increasing trend of cyber crime:
A young man misuse social network, shooting pornography and blackmailing to victims- Police in-charge of district mentioned that his team has arrested a young man in charge of shooting pornography and blackmailing young girls. The perpetrator is not from the same district. He makes friend through facebook quickly. He has attractive personality and good capacity of emotional dialogue so that girls are easily fall in his pseudo love. He tells that he is from very rich family but he is orphan. He has no close relatives in this world. He can make very emotional stories that he easily makes targeted girls falling in his love. He speaks in a very lovely manner. Initially, he expenses good amount of money too. It takes not more than 2-3 days to establish physical relationship with girls. Once he establishes the relation, he shoots the pornography and start blackmailing with girls and their family. As per perpetuator, he has made hundreds of pornography from different parts of the country. This is his hubby he mentioned. Now he is in police custody in Sindhuli district and is under legal procedure.
k) Mediation of criminal cases by community members, political leaders/elected representatives, networks etc.:
A 15 years pregnant girl came to Ilaka Police Office Bhingri of Pyuthan district. Her boyfriend is 22 years old. They wanted to establish their married life. But due to age factor, they were suggested to go for abortion. They aborted the baby and both of the families are now willing to separate them. Girl’s family has demanded3 lakhs Nepalese Rupees. Boy’s family is not willing or not able to provide this amount of money. Now the case has become more complicated. As per Nepal’s legal provision, sexual relation with girl below 16 is considered as a rape and action will be taken accordingly. Family members of girl side were preparing for registering the case as a ‘rape’ case. Many of such cases in district are being mediated.
l) Domestic violence to women and children due to dowry:
Dowry is one of the big reasons of domestic violence in district. People are unknown about GBV as a crime, there is still need of awareness. There is “Talaak” practice in Muslim community which has also fueled the domestic violence. Male member of society as the bread earner always want to be in superior position instead of respecting co-existence of female both at family and society.
B. What do victims expect from service providers?
• Victims expect soft and welcoming behave from police and service providers in understandable language(Normally, they prefer local language for conversations);
• Victims want their cases to be looked in timely manner;
• Victims want police and service providers to hear them out seriously;
• Victims want to see equal behave to all from police personnel without any bias, they prefer special treat to the person who has specific needs such as differently able person, wounded person, mentally distressed person, etc;
• Many of the crimes are committed through mobile phone and social media. So, victims want to investigate in a prompt manner by tracking call location;
• Victims want police personnel to keep their information confidential;
• Victims and their family want further counseling in regards of their own issues;
• Women and girls want their cases to be dealt by women police personnel;
• Victims want to see continue follow up by police to perpetrator and family members through patrolling, phone follow up and an appointed date to visit police office and have further discussion;
• GBV victims want referral support from service providers mainly for their livelihood and community reintegration.
There is long journey to go so as to minimize the vulnerability of girls and women. A further measure of sustainability is the extent and strength of the partnerships, networks and coordination. Women in Nepal who have experienced GBV have multiple and complex needs. This includes medical care, safe accommodation, psychosocial counselling, police protection, legal advice and ultimately life skill training and supports that lead their sustainable livelihood. One particularly thorny problem is the referral process and the decision about whether the case should be mediated or sent to the courts. In the name of mediation, there is high chance of hostility of the victims. Many cases of polygamy and child marriage were reported as mediated at different level, i.e., from community to even court also. The main reason of this is related to the vast power differentials between the parties involved and the male domination of the judicial and police system. Adequate safe house and services, free health checkups to victims, psychosocial counseling, good referral and coordination mechanism definitely help to establish effective integrated services mechanism at local level. Integral role of local bodies to address the issues has been strongly realized.
Balkrishna Silwal Sharma has more than 20 years of experience of leading and coordinating participatory-right based rural development programme through a multidisciplinary team to change lives of the un-reached and marginalized people and communities for their holistic development(Nepal, Afghanistan and Tajikistan); The views expressed in this paper are solely the author’s views.