In this post, our co-worker Sagar offers a perspective on domestic violence entirely different -- and yet all too familiar -- from the one we have in America. From cultural norms passed down over time, to legal progress filled with loopholes, it paints a startling and similar picture of datng abuse, showing us that domestic violence is a global epidemic that must be stopped. Read on:
Nepal is a predominantly patriarchal society where societal values and norms hugely influence attitudes and responsibilities, sometimes leadin to domestic violence. Deeply rooted societal customs, like where women are obligated to greet their husbands and in-laws after waking up and eating from husbands plates after they are done eating, are part of the factors that indirectly contributes to male dominated psychology. This mentality of male domination through such customs often leads to domestic violence.
According to Gender-Based Violence, a study conducted in three districts by the Nepalese government, 55 percent of women believe a husband is justified in beating an unfaithful wife. Almost half of women (48 percent) reported that they had experienced violence at some time in their lives. Emotional violence (40.4 percent) was most commonly reported, followed by physical violence (26.8 percent), sexual violence (15.3 percent) and economic abuse/violence (eight percent). Social exclusion was less commonly reported, but 11 percent of women had been denied access to health services, and eight percent had been denied access to places of worship. A large percentage of women (61.3 percent) who had experienced violence had not shared or discussed their experiences with anyone. Women who faced economic violence were more likely to share their experiences with someone than those faced sexual, emotional or physical violence.
Interestingly, this same study found that around 99 percent of adolescents and youth agree that there should be equal rights between male and female. Four percent feel that it is appropriate to beat a girlfriend/wife by their boyfriend/husband to prove their control over them, and six percent of adolescents think forcing the wife into sexual intercourse without her consent is justified.
When Nepal passed the Gender Equality Act in 2006, it brought tangible legal changes to sexual violence against women. A major achievement of this act is the provision that an offender convicted for rape must compensate the victim for mental and physical damage. Also important is the 2009 Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act, which recognized for the first time that domestic violence is a crime punishable by law. However, while the act recognizes domestic violence as a crime, it contains provisions for negotiations through police offices, which seems contradictory. Although there are some laws and provisions against domestic violence, many victims are left without support mainly because of the poor mechanism to deliver support services. as well as a lack of awareness among people regarding such provisions.
Dowry related abuse and death, marital rape and control over reproductive rights of women are some of the forms of domestic violence prevalent in the Nepalese communities. Dowry is the money, goods or other forms of property that has to be given to the groom's family by the bride's family in the time of their marriage. It's considered as a social evil in Nepal yet it is in practice. It can be defined as an essential condition for the marriage to go ahead. A girl married to a traditional family is expected to perform various responsibilities being the daughter-in-law of that family. She is expected to carry out all the household chores from morning to evening and also take care of entire family. This system is the cause of many domestic violence cases like the one mentioned.
Rihana, 19, was allegedly set on fire by her husband Farid Sheikh and in-laws at Laxmanpur Village of Banke district on March 17, 2014, for not bringing a water buffalo, a gold watch and a motorcycle as dowry. She was locked up in a room for two days without any medical attention and taken to India for treatment only after her condition worsened. She was also pressured to keep silent about the burning incident.
A 22-year-old married girl from Far-Western Nepal said, “When I was pregnant, my mother-in-law used to beat me and pull my hair. When she got angry, she used to hit me with whatever was in front of her. She has also hit me with a sickle.”
A 41-year-old woman from a marginalized community said, “When I faced both physical and sexual violence from my husband, I didn’t do anything initially. But it got worse, and I told my son. We went to town and reported this to the lawyer. The lawyer said that he would help us and get us justice.”
Such incidents are very common especially in the rural communities of Nepal where dowry related domestic violence and sexual violence is rampant. Some incidents like this are highlighted by the media, which helps the victim, but most of the domestic violence cases go unreported as the perpetrators silence the victim with threats. The victims usually don’t speak out because of shame. However, there has been a rise in the reporting of such cases recently. Many non-profit and non-governmental organizations have been working to support the victims of domestic violence by advocating for their rights.