KATHMANDU, Dec 10: “My husband used to beat me often under the influence of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I suffered severe injuries to my stomach and I often used to bleed while urinating,” Neha Chaudhary recounts her ordeal.
Chaudhary suffered violence at the hands of her own husband for long. She was even hospitalized for a few days due to severe injuries as a result of indiscriminate beating. The mental and physical torment she was subjected to was too much to bear. Her husband even stopped allowing her in at their home.
So, Chaudhary decided to file a case of domestic violence against him with the police. She claimed that her in-laws had given the ownership of all their properties to their daughters so that they did not have to give her any share. Her situation was bleak; she had to go through various adversities before finally being free from all the torment.
One day, she decided to share her agony through social media and her post went viral instantly. A large number of people who could relate her personal agony and trauma stood up for her cause. And now, the Madhesi Commission is taking up her case.
Chaudhary is just a case in point. There are a large number of women who are subjected to various forms of domestic violence. There are a number of other victims like Chaudhary who are quietly suffering from domestic violence.
In a similar case in the recent past, Nepali Actress Shilpa Pokharel complained that she was subjected to extreme levels of domestic violence at the hand of her own husband. Pokharel later filed a case against her husband Chhabi Ojha, a film director, with the Kathmandu Police.
Actress Pokharel claimed that her husband used to choke her and would later apologize to her profusely. But once, he didn't let her go and she had to hit him to get out of his grip.
What is worse is that the cases of domestic violence in Nepal are on the rise despite interventions made against domestic violence by various stakeholders. For instance, various donor agencies are currently marking the 16-day of activism against gender-based violence.
Nepal Police Spokesperson Tek Prasad Rai said that the cases of domestic violence are increasing every year. “A total of 17,000 cases related to domestic violence were reported in the last fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year, the total number of such cases reported was 14,232. In the first four months of the current fiscal year, the cases registered have already reached 4,337,” said Spokesperson Rai.
Asked if such women are getting justice, Rai said, “We are trying our best to provide them justice. We are very sensitive to the issue of domestic violence.”
During COVID-19 lockdown when everyone was locked in their homes, the instances of domestic violence increased significantly. Although home is supposed to be one of the safest places, it was hell living there with their abusive partners for some women.
A report published by the National Women’s Commission (NWC) showed that there were 604 reported cases of domestic violence in the two months of lockdown that began in April, 2020. The cases have gone up as victims in most cases do not have enough resources to seek help or they are simply scared of their abusers because they are stuck at home with them.
In most cases, women even deny lodging complaints against the perpetrators of domestic violence. “Women are scared to lodge complaints because they don’t have proper understanding where to go and they are also scared that their reputation might be harmed,” says Spokesperson at the Women’s Commission Chamila Bhattarai.
Bhattarai said they have set up a helpline number for the victims to make it easy for them to report such incidents. “We even call assaulters and organize counseling sessions with them. If the matter is serious, we take legal action against the guilty. We have been trying to help the victims in all ways possible.”
Women rights activist Babita Basnet argues that the government should take some serious action against the perpetrator of domestic violence recognising it as a serious crime. “The main reason behind the rise in cases of domestic violence these days is that more and more women are becoming educated but the perception of men toward women has yet to change. Men still tend to believe that women should be under their control and they still have the old patriarchal mindset towards women,” says Basnet, who is also the chairperson of Media Advocacy Group.
Basnet, who is also the editor of Ghatana Ra Bichar, a vernacular weekly, believes that the failure on the part of the government agencies concerned to properly implement the laws that are in favor of women has also given rise to the cases of domestic violence in Nepal.
“The government should organize various social campaigns against domestic violence and our education system should also be improved. And, most importantly, police should take proper legal action against the perpetrator to effectively curb the cases of domestic violence,” she adds.