Awful VAW and Weak Commitments
By APD Reporter
Questions have been raised over safety of girls from multiple quarters in Nepal, following a horrifying acid attack over two schoolgirls- Sangita Magar and Sima Basnet aged 15 and 16, in the Capital last week. The place where the girls were attacked is merely at the distance of 200 meters from the Hanumandhoka Police Office, though the police are still in search of the fugitives.
After the incident, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala himself has vowed to book the culprits and expressed government’s commitments to curb women, against violence in the country.
The Nepal police have yielded no results to arrest the fugitives despite continued efforts so far. Investigation report is yet to be made public by the police in the case. This is not the first case of such attack against teenage girls and women in the country.
Mostly in the Terai Region, girls are attacked with acid by their boyfriends or relatives for their refusal to tie knots or if the bride are failed to offer the dowry to the bridegroom as promised during the engagement.
The teenage girls are burnt alive in the Terai, when they fail to offer the dowry as promised during the engagement, many of them are injured and some have died. On May 5 last year, a 25-year-old woman Rihana Sheikh Dhapali, a resident of Hirminya VDC of Banke, was burnt alive allegedly by her husband Farid Sheikh as she couldn’t bring a motorcycle and a water buffalo in dowry. She was given pressure by her husband not to disclose the incident. However, after media brought reports on the case, the husband was arrested. Later on, she was brought to Kathmandu for treatment and recovered. The Nepal government also provided financial support to her.
The teenage girls are forced to begin their nuptial life which has been resulting troubles with their new family and eventually many have divorced with the husband.
Even teenage girls are raped by their own brother or father as well as relatives. National and International human rights groups have launched various campaign for preventing Violence Against Women (VAW) and children, they are not sufficient though.
Releasing a report in January this year, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressed grave concerns over increasing cases of VAW and children across the country. The NHRC, country’s human rights watchdog, urged the government to take initiative to end all kinds of VAW and children. It had recalled the Nepal government it was a party to Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 1979 and Convention on Children´s Rights 1989. The NHRC stated in its field report that VAW and children have been alarming in Nepal.
A data provided by the Nepal police to the NHRC shows that VAW and children have increased to alarming levels in recent years. “Altogether 912 rape cases were reported in the fiscal year 2013/014 while the number was just 376 five years ago. Number of cases of domestic violence was 983 in 2009/010 and it has risen to 6,835 in 2013/014,” Spokesperson at the NHRC Mohana Ansari told reporters in a recent media briefing.
Seven child marriage cases were recorded in 2009/10, such cases rose to 17 in 2013/014, Ansari said. The number of human trafficking cases in 2009/10 was 161, but such cases climbed to 185 in the past one year.
The United Nations Office in Nepal also expressed concern over increasing VAW in Nepal. “Sadly these cases are only a few out of many more cases of gender-based violence in the country, including instances of physical, sexual, psychological, socio-cultural and economic violence. VAW and girls is a form of discrimination as well as a violation of human rights. The wide public attention that is now being generated has created momentum that we cannot allow to simply subside. It must be supported if real change is to occur in Nepal and globally,” the UN office said in a Jan 15 press release.
Nepal has already endorsed a Domestic Violence Act and a 5-year national strategy and action plan for ending gender-based violence but such incidents are taking place across the country.
“Despite such commitments, recent events painfully illustrate that too women and girls are still waiting for the respectful and equal treatment they deserve. Greater empowerment of women will mean that their children will also gain greater rights and protections, ensuring a better future for Nepal. It is time for concrete national action with effective implementation and reinforcement of commitments, norms and laws. Ending VAW and girls deserves high political prioritization and sufficient public spending,” the UN statement added.
However, Minister for Women, Child and Social Welfare Nilam KC told APD that government is committed to control VAW. She said that the acid attackers will not be spared.
“A new bill on Sexual Harassment at the work place has already come into effect on my initiative,” Minister KC added, “I am quite hopeful the new law helps to curb VAW at their work places.”