National Consultative Workshop on Gender Based
Violence in Nepal
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES
19 December , Lalitpur
Report prepared by Kosh Raj Koirala
On 19th December, 2013, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Nepal (FES) organized a National Consultative Workshop on Gender
Based Violence (GBV) in Nepal to review the efforts made so far
and measures to be taken in the days ahead to address the issue.
The Workshop was organized mainly with the aim of receiving feedback
and recommendations from concerned stakeholders so that they could
be presented in the South Asia Gender Summit to be held in Dhaka,
Bangladesh in the beginning of 2014.
Nepal has made strong normative and legal commitments to ending
gender-based violence and inequality. It has ratified the Convention
on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women
(CEDAW), thereby legally binding itself to put the CEDAW provisions
into practice. A Domestic Violence Act and a five-year national
strategy and action plan for ending gender-based violence have
also been put in place. Despite such commitment on the part of
the government, women in Nepal continue to face various forms
of gender-based violence, including instances of physical, sexual,
psychological, socio-cultural and economic violence. In most cases,
males are found to be behind such cases of gender based violence
Against this context, the Workshop drew a
large number of male as well as female participants from various
walks of life. This was exceptional, because it has been a longstanding
trend to invite only female participants in programs related
to gender-based violence. The workshop chaired by constitutional
expert Kashi Raj Dahal had separate presentations by woman activist
Bandana Rana, woman leader of CPN-UML Binda Pandey, journalist
Babita Basnet, advocate Rup Narayan Shrestha, Nepal Director
at SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu Dhan Bahadur Oli and Nepal
Police Spokesperson Ganesh KC. These presentations were followed
by lively floor discussions. While woman activist and journalist
Arati Chataut welcomed participants and introduced the objectives
of the program, FES Nepal Director Dev Raj Dahal had wrapped
up the program with his concluding remarks.
At the outset of the program, a 10-minute
long documentary-- "Silence Speaks'- was shown to the participants
to better set the real context of the program. The FES Gender
Coordinator Samira Paudel, who played instrumental role
in planning, coordinating and organizing the workshop, briefly
described about various forms of gender-based violence prevalent
in Nepal to help acquaint the audience with the theme of the
workshop. She briefly introduced about how FES started and its
areas of work. She also explained about the South Asia Gender
Summit which takes place every year in different venue and topic.
She said that even if there were some achievements made in terms
of gender friendly laws and policies in Nepal, women are still
becoming the victim of patriarchic attitude and the power structure.
She mentioned that gender justice is a real mechanism to achieve
social justice therefore; violence against women has to be stopped
to achieve gender justice. She mentioned that this consultative
workshop was planned to have a proper discussion and interaction
with stakeholders which can find solution to minimize deeply
rooted discrimination and the support of growing awareness can
lead to modern and fair politics in Nepal.
While welcoming the participants and presenters
in the program, Aarati Chataut briefly mentioned the
recent 16-day long campaign on VAW that Nepal observed with
various programs. She said that one in three women is subjected
to violence of one form or the other and the deaths of woman
aged between19 to 44 worldwide are caused due to violence according
to a UN report. Stating that Nepal is no exception to this horrible
situation, she emphasized on the need to bring a structural
decentralization of powers to ensure women's rights and also
end gender based violence in Nepal.
Chataut was of the opinion that empowerment
of women is key to ending all forms of gender-based violence.
While urging the government to adopt both long term and short
term measures to this end, she suggested the government to continue
with the policy of positive discrimination at least for next
50 years as a long-term measure and give women special protection
in all sectors through various government interventions as short
term measure. She expressed her worry that new Constituent Assembly
may not have even 33 percent representation of women despite
commitment from both the government and political parties in
On the occasion, she also highlighted the
fact that some of the laws existing in the country do not provide
justice to women especially in the cases relating to domestic
violence and urged the concerned government bodies to bring
amendments in those laws with due urgency.
In her keynote speech, Bandana Rana
expressed happiness that the workshop had 'new' stakeholders
including males. Stating that it had been already 30 years since
she started working for women-related issues, she briefly explained
her personal experience since she joined Nepal Television as
news anchor in 1986 and started being involved in women's activism
four years later. She argued that societal norms and values,
as well as institutional environments have a decisive role in
shaping the personal growth of a woman as an individual or as
Referring to a typical social practice in
some part of Nepal to confine women undergoing first-time menstruation
in dark chamber for 21 days and tendency of society to give
women subordinate roles even at work, she argued that these
kinds of social and cultural practices have only left women
to feel inferior to their male counterparts. Male members are
not only prepared by the society to face challenge but are also
allowed higher degree of freedom so that they can easily meet
and interact with decision makers, giving them the prospect
of early promotion and other advantages.
Rana, while expressing satisfaction that the
movement against gender based violence had gained a momentum
in Nepal in recent years, pointed out the need to develop support
mechanisms so that women facing violence can speak up against
their perpetrators and bring such persons to justice. She said
that her organization SAATHI had first taken initiative to set
up one such shelter in 1995. "More than 99 percent women
have to undergo sexual violence. This could be big or simple
form of violence," she said while highlighting the urgency
to make additional efforts to address the issue.
She maintained that the situation is not that
disappointing, though. "Women have started speaking up
against domestic violence. The level of awareness among women
has increased. I see a rosy picture ahead," she said. She
noted that new partnership with men and sport players to end
GBV have started yielding positive results. The year 2010, according
to her, was a significant year as this marked the introduction
of five-year strategic plan to address GBV.
In a separate context, she said that there
is still no clarity among women activists on the issue of the
LGBT. "We will need to work on this as well. Nothing will
happen unless we work towards changing our attitudes and behaviors,"
Rana's critical assessment on gender based
violence was followed by a presentation by CPN-UML leader Binda
Pandey, who shed light on the GBV issues from labor perspective.
While expressing satisfaction that the GBV issue had been raised
by different stakeholders in recent years, she explained that
women are still subjected to both physical and psychological
violence in the workplaces and outside. She said that the state
should be able to provide women with a political identity so
that they can start to address the issues. Arguing that economic
independence alone cannot ensure abolition of all forms and
manifestations of gender based violence, she added that participation
of women in all state structures was a must to achieve this
She emphasized ensuring the participation
of at least 33 percent women in state structures as per the
commitment made by political parties. "How we act is important
that what we think to address the VAW," she said while
urging political parties to take special considerations to ensure
at least 33 percent women's participation in the new Constituent
Highlighting the fact that women are subjected
to violence largely due to societal norms and values, Pandey
said that Nepalese society tends to provide special protection
to male members while denying women of such opportunities, including
the rights to property. She mentioned that there is discrimination
in terms of wage between males and females for the same work
and both society and state have failed to recognize the value
of household works done by women. "Women do not need reservation
or preference if there is a commitment from all concerned stakeholders
to provide equal status in all activities," she said. She
added that state has to recognize the contribution made by women
to ensure them social justice. "Only then can we expect
to end violence against women in society," she further
said. "We need to avoid practices like Chhaupadi and the
national curriculum in the schools also need to incorporate
issues relating to menstruation."
While adding that working class women continue
to be voiceless even these days, Pandey said that there is a
tendency to assassinate the character of women who speak against
physical and psychological violence meted out to them. "Working
class women are forced to undergo violence in the name of witches.
Neither the state listens to their cry, nor does the society,"
Pandey emphasized on the need to redistribute
power to ensure equity of women, and to forge partnerships with
males, as well as those in the top management of industries
and business enterprise in the campaign to end gender based
violence."Social transformation is not possible without
ensuring the participation of women, because they consist half
of the total population in the country," she concluded.
In his brief remarks on the issue, Nepal Director
at SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu Dhan Bahadur Oli wished
that Nepal could take a leadership role in ending gender based
violence in South Asia. He said that the issue could be raised
at the regional level in coordination with SAARC Secretariat.
While highlighting the various conventions
and the Social Charter adopted by SAARC to deal with cases of
gender based violence including women trafficking, Oli said
that all member states have also prepared their respective action
plan to address the issue. "Each member state has also
formed national coordination committee to implement them. But
our efforts to hold the meeting of those committees has not
yet been successful," he said.
Oli suggested concerned stakeholders in Nepal
to hold serious discussions on the issue as Nepal is hosting
the 18th SAARC Summit. He also pointed out the need to align
national plans and programs on eradication of violence against
women with those of the SAARC. "Nepal can inspire other
countries in this field as Nepal is doing relatively well on
the issue," he said.
What followed Oli's remarks was an attempt
of advocate Rup Narayan Shrestha to highlight the existing
laws in Nepal to address the issue of GBV. Shrestha argued that
though Nepal has introduced various laws to address the issue
concerning gender based violence over the past two decades the
implementation status of those laws and the constitutional provisions
remains dismal. He argued that judicial activism in Nepal had
helped remove many laws that were discriminatory to women including
their rights to property.
Shrestha mentioned that the rights to property
to women guaranteed by the Interim Constitution 2007, rights
to abortion, provision of 33 percent reservation to women in
all state structures, changes in the laws and act to ensure
gender equality, increase of the jurisdiction of anti human
trafficking law and formulation of separate law to deal with
domestic violence against women are among important milestones
in legal reforms towards ending the cases of GBV in Nepal.
Shrestha said there is, however, nothing except
a verdict of Supreme Court on LGBTs."There are still some
lapses in the existing laws. While the statute of limitation
to file cases against those involved in rape is just 35 days,
our laws still do not fully recognize the guardianship of women
in families," he added. He pointed out the need to formulate
necessary laws as many women are subjected to violence due to
the internet and social networking sites in recent years. He
noted that they face challenges to address cases of domestic
violence against women as many such cases do not even come to
the public. What's worse, according to Shrestha, is that there
are no appropriate laws to deal with sexual harassments against
women in the work places and in other public places. "Women's
access to justice at the grass root level and lack of effective
compensation arrangement to those facing violence are also among
the challenges to curb the instances of violence against women,"
Senior journalist Babita Basnet argued
that Nepali media have grown very sensitive towards responsible
journalism. While newspapers and televisions have stopped publishing
or telecasting photos and real names of rape victims, they have
also begun giving adequate space to incidents related to violence
against women. She noted that awareness level of women has increased
lately and several discriminatory laws and acts have been amended
due to media campaign."Though there are some wrong tendencies
on the part of media to glorify the cases of women working in
restaurants, bars and massage parlors, such tendencies are also
changing gradually," she said.
Basnet asserted that women in Nepal continue
to face mental and physical violence and in many cases they
even have to undergo character assassination when they speak
up against violence perpetrated by male members. While acknowledging
that there is still a big gap in women's access to the media,
she also pointed out the need to give due attention even to
the violence perpetrated by women to men. She was of the opinion
that some laws including the one related to divorce is discriminatory
to men, and it is more difficult for husbands to get divorce
than it is for wives.
Nepal Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent
of Police (SSP) Ganesh KC said that Nepal Police is highly
sensitive to the issues relating to gender based violence. Stating
that Nepal Police started recruiting women personnel since 1996
and that their number now stands at 4,100, he added that though
the violence related to sex and property is perpetrated by males,
violence against women is also perpetrated by one woman onto
another. "We will need to look at this aspect too,"
KC argued that special attention needs to
be given to improve economic condition of women and educational
level needs to be enhanced to increase their awareness. The
Police on its part, KC said, is doing its best by imparting
necessary training and skills to its personnel and developing
a separate Standards of Operation (SOP) to deal with cases of
gender based violence.
KC said Nepal Police, among other things,
has provided training on GBV to some 600 police personnel as
a part of the National Action Plan, prepared training manuals
and focused on creating woman friendly environment through gender
responsive programs. "We have also introduced victims support
program to effectively limit cases of GBV," he said while
assuring that any official in the Nepal Police showing reluctance
to deal with GBV cases would be relieved from the duty. He mentioned
that they are facing difficulties to address the issue as witnesses
to the cases of GBV often turn hostile.
Several participants either posed questions
or gave feedback and comments to the presenters during the floor
discussions. While asking the reason behind the small number
of women in the Nepal Police, Narendra Khatiwada of Youth
Advocacy argued that women may be perpetrating violence against
women due to the structure of society itself. He pointed out
the need to ensure meaningful representation of women in politics
to end such a situation.
Likewise, Nirmala Dhungana argued that
the issues of religious as well as ritual violence need to be
addressed while talking about violence against women. Adding
that unequal power relation between males and females is also
partly to be blamed for this state, she said that the violence
against women won't be curbed unless the perpetrators of such
violence during the conflict period are brought to justice.
While Indira Ale asked questions as
to how many women head the UML's district level committees,
another participant Bijaya Dahal suggested the presenters to
include even the issue of trans-gender groups in the discourse
of gender based violence. Likewise, Krishna Adhikari suggested
studying the cases of gender violence based on geographical
regions and those reported in different medium of mass media.
Rupa Acharya commented that the situation
of women working in informal sector was pitiable. She said that
these women neither have social status, nor do they have political
access. "There is discrimination in both work and wages.
This also needs to be addressed to solve gender based violence,"
While highlighting the cases of structural
and cultural violence against women, another participant Chiranjeevi
Bhandari expressed worry that the issue of 'decoupling'
instead of 'recoupling' was growing high in Nepalese society.
He maintained that relations building should get priority in
post-conflict society like one in Nepal.
Sita Rupakheti said that discussions
should instead focus on how to implement the provisions that
are already guaranteed by the laws. She argued that it is not
easy to exercise rights without fighting for them.
Likewise, Indira Sharma argued that
the cases of violence against women are mainly caused due to
existing social structure and attitude of people. While maintaining
that implementation of existing laws are very weak, she suggested
concerned stakeholders to ensure that their program on awareness
and empowerment of women have reached to grass root level.
Faculty at Tribhuvan University Gobinda
Narayan argued that the issue of violence against women
was intrinsically related to economic independence of women.
He added that the approach to look at women's problems needed
a change and that many issues deemed trivial such as girls'
toilet in school and during long distance travel in bus were
important to women. Narayan Bahadur Thapa argued that
foreign employment was necessary evil as this has been one of
the main reasons behind growing instances of violence against
women in Nepal. He was of the opinion that preventive measures
could be adopted to curb such instances of violence through
While Munni Sharma emphasized the need
to ensure strong implementation mechanisms of existing laws,
another participant Laxmi Karki argued that state intervention
was a must to ensure political and legal identity of women to
curb the instances of violence against women. Ram Sharan
Luintel highlighted the need to introduce civic education
programs that include courses related to gender based violence
in secondary level education. Bijaya Prasain posed a
question if women in Nepal are really fighting for equity or
for reservation. Mohan Raj Joshi argued that many women
such as Badi group are forced to face sexual violence due to
lack of any alternative means to fulfill their basic necessities.
Likewise, Sushila KC of Yuwalaya argued
that women are subjected to discrimination due to perceived
threat of sexual harassment to them. She added that the discourse
on gender based violence painfully misses the debate as to how
women could be kept safe. Another participant Bishnu Gurung
said that a sizeable amount of budget allocated by Ministry
of Local Development had failed to reach to poor women at the
grass root level. He argued that divorce had actually invited
various problems into women's lives.
The workshop arrived at various conclusions,
which were endorsed by the gathering. The conclusions include:
- Existing social structure and the roles
that society has determined to women have played important
role to make women face various forms of violence. Due consideration
needs to be given to change the existing patriarchal social
structure and the attitude that exists among people through
- Though the constitution and government
plans, policies, and strategies have tried to address the
gender based violence, implementation aspect of those constitutional
and legal provisions is very weak. This calls for strong implementation
of existing laws to curb the cases of gender based violence.
- The Government should take proactive initiatives
to implement the international conventions, treaties and covenants
related to women to which Nepal is a party.
- The condition of women won't improve until
and unless the participation of women within the organizational
structures of political parties is increased.
- The cases of violence against women during
decade-long Maoist conflict need to be investigated thoroughly
and the guilty behind such incidents need to be brought to
justice based on the principle of transitional justice system.
- Government needs to formulate new laws
such as one to deal with cyber crimes-the lack of which has
made women vulnerable to face violence.
- The statute of limitation for filing case
in heinous crimes like rape needs to be increased from existing
- Women's access to the judicial system and
media needs to be increased to curb violence against women.
- The practice of media to assassinate the
character of women based on false information needs to be
- Coordination and cooperation among all
sectors could help to curb the cases of gender based violence.
- A curriculum on Civic Education that includes
the issue of gender based violence needs to be incorporated
in secondary level textbooks to create a society based on
- Judges and justices need to be provided
with training and orientation to make them more sensitive
to the issues related to violence against women.
- Officials in government agencies need to
change their response to cases of VAW.
- Additional efforts need to be made to create
gender friendly work place for women.
- Meaningful participation of women in all
state structures including in political parties and their
access to resources are key to end the cases of gender based