For centuries, Nepalese women have been discriminated. The inherent patriarchal and feudal structures have been operating through norms, values, and social practices, aimed at controlling and exploiting women’s bodies. In today’s Nepal, Women continue to be marginalized, abused, exploited and subjugated – they are denied dignity and access to basic human rights.
On 21st November 2006, Nepal signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) and thus entered the peace process, ending more than a decade long political conflict. All the parties involved committed themselves to uphold the human rights situation in the country. Subsequently, progressive steps have been taken by the government. However, there are worrying indicators that these steps aimed at ending Violence Against Women (VAW) are not sufficient and scanty attention has been given to their enforcement.
Whereas many women joined the movement as female combatants to create spaces where women could operate freely as agents of change, there are indicators that female combatants equally faced various forms of violence and have been denied access to justice by their political party. On the contrary, female ex combatants have been confronted with a big dilemma, and denied the opportunity to join the Nepali army as part of the re-integration process. They have instead been relegated and forced to go back to the confines of the traditional roles of a woman.
The increased impunity in the transitional phase in Nepal, has hiked the level of statelessness, politicization of crimes, and amnesty for the perpetrators granted by the political parties. This presents a major challenge to peace, democracy and stability. Women and marginalized groups pay the highest price. Violence Against Women is under reported or unreported due to fear of reprisals, lack of witness protection and victim protection, and lack of reliance in the judiciary system. Despite the present redress mechanisms, crimes against women such as sexual violence are still resolved through mediation or alternative dispute resolution.
From the national research conducted by WOREC Nepal and Isis-WICCE (2010) with support of other women’s rights organizations on “Access to Justice for survivors of sexual violence in Nepal, from 2007 – 2010”, sexual violence cuts across all age groups (62.8% minors and 37.2% adults), ethnic groups and professions. From the media sources 241 cases were reported on an annual basis compared to 443 registered cases at the police. It also indicates that whereas, there have been efforts to report this atrocity, majority of survivors are unwilling to speak out due to the strong socio-cultural barriers, fear of retaliation, stigmatization and isolation, poverty and the hostile enforcement mechanisms and legal system. The continued impunity is further exemplified by the fact that even high profile women (e.g. a member of the Constituent Assembly) have fallen victim of sexual violence by security forces and the legal system remains adamant.
This is further affirmed by WOREC Nepal (2010) report which clearly illustrates that out of the 1594 cases collected, 60% of the women were subjected to domestic violence, 21% faced social violence and 9% rape. Amongst the perpetrators, husbands accounted for 43.2%, followed by neighbors (27.4%), and family members (22.6%). The report further elaborated that rape accounted for the next highest category of VAW where a total of 150 cases were reported and indicated that rape against women comes from men they know.
All these have hampered the full utilization of the potentials of women and thus further lowered the development indices of Nepal. This confirms that the agenda of women is still not a priority on the Nepal government agenda and makes it hard for women to access justice and fully exercise and enjoy their fundamental rights.
The Government of Nepal is scheduled to present its report on human rights observance as required by the Human Rights Council during the Universal Peer Review Process on 25th January 2011 in Geneva. As key actors in the advancement of women globally and in the reconstruction of Nepal, this is an opportune moment to further profile the situation of women in Nepal, as evidenced from the efforts of NGO’s and UN institutions responding to violence against women and human rights in general.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), WOREC Nepal and Isis WICCE, have organized a workshop on 26th January 2011, to provide the alternative perspective of the situation of women’s rights in Nepal to the attention of Government, Rights holders, the civil society, Missions in Geneva, and development partners, together with Experts working on issues related to sexual violence in different parts of the world.
At the workshop will raise awareness on the scope and the gravity of violence against women in Nepal and lobby the government to fulfill its state obligations. Specifically, the organizations will highlight the challenges of accessing justice and launch a national report on Access to Justice for Survivors of Rape.
Experts will include Ms. Bindu Gautam, Nepali, Lead Researcher, Dr. Trilochan Upreti, Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal, responsible for the Human Rights Unit; Dr. Rashida Manjoo, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Harriet Musoke, Programme Coordinator, Isis WICCE, Uganda to present her experiences on documentation in different post conflict countries;