KATHMANDU, Dec 10: Even though cases of violence are largely being reported these days, this does not clearly include cases related to women with disabilities. Due to the lack of support at home and society, women who have physical or mental issues continue to be suppressed and silenced, and it is more so in the rural areas, they say.
Talking to Republica, Nirmala Dhital, chairperson of Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA), said that persons with physical disabilities are always a soft target of perpetrators.
"But due to the lack of family support and serious concerns for them, most of the women keep the matters to themselves. I would like to say that they are silenced by family members and the society, as well as the state," she noted.
Manisha Rijal (name changed), a staff at NDWA, meanwhile stated that the fear of being further ostracized by family members and the society keeps women with disabilities from speaking out. They always fear that they will lack even the minimum support they have if they try to bring the issues of violence out. Rijal, who lost her left leg to an accident, says she herself faced many such perils in life and never shared it to anyone until she joined the organization six years ago.
"Women's socio-political status, in general, is poor. It is more so in case of women who have one or other kind of disability. I never had courage to speak against sexual violence I was bearing for long until the day I joined this organization," said Rijal, adding that many women in the rural areas silently endure sexual and other kinds of violence inflicted on them.
NDWA had done a year-long research on 145 women with disabilities from Kavre, Gorkha and Morang districts. And the recently published report 'Invisible realities – Understanding the lived experiences of women with disabilities in rural Nepal' state that 72 percent of the women faced physical violence. And not even 25 percent reported this to police or anyone else.
"This shows that we don't have access to justice," said Dhital. "In the survey, 50 percent respondents said that they keep quiet because they felt no one would listen to them," she added.
Dhital further stated that women with disabilities, basically those who have mental issues, have difficulty in recognizing and defining violence against them, including sexual violence.
An extraordinary love story
When she was just 17, an unsuccessful spinal cord surgery to remove tumor landed Yami Magar on a wheelchair forever. She thought life had closed many doors for her including the experience of a happy family life. The more she would look at the lives of women with disabilities, the more upset she would feel. "Violence against women with mental or physical disabilities was rampant. The families of only a few would really support them. And marriage or love in their life was almost next to impossible," the 30-year-old recounts.
But then life had a great gift for her in store. A man who knew her since before she was wheelchair-bound told her something unbelievable. He wanted to be with her for the rest of his life. "I could not take his words seriously. I thought he had become a little emotional after seeing my condition, that's all," she said.
The man was Chandra Gharti Magar, who had met Yami just a few times earlier. After he failed to impress Yami, he went to meet her parents straight away. He told them that he wanted to marry their daughter. Yami's parents could not believe their ears. They had given up the hope of seeing their daughter married, moreover to someone with a normal physique. "My parents asked him to rethink his decision. In the future, he might just ditch me, they were hesitant just like me," narrated Yami.
However, his affection turned out to be true. Over the time, Chandra won the family's confidence and the marriage took place between the two. It has been seven years since the couple tied the knot and they feel they are quite lucky to have each other in life. "Love has not diminished till date. He is a beautiful soul and I am blessed to have him as my husband," said Yami, who has completed her Bachelor's degree and is going to pursue her masters now. Her bigger identity is, she is a national basketball player and 'that has become possible just because of her husband's extreme support.'
The couple has not tried for a child. Yami states that she is not confident of being a perfect mother. Because of her physical condition, she is hesitant. "If I was sure of giving a normal life to children, I would think of that," she said.
Transportation woes for the people with disabilities are common in Kathmandu. The capital's roads are not friendly to them. Yami has faced no less hurdles. The couple lives in a rented room in Bagbazar, where her campus, Padma Kanya College, is located. Yami works at an office nearby as an accountant. Her husband Chandra fixes wires. "Though we don't have a huge income, we are living happily. Love is everything," she said. Chandra simply nodded with a sweet smile on his face.