Fighting violence against girls in Nepal
As concerns grow internationally about the unseen violence and abuse of girls and women, ChoraChori will play a key role in fighting such violence against girls in Nepal, bringing support to the victims and justice to the perpetrators.
The statistics on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Nepal are truly shocking. The Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016 found that 23% of women had been subject to physical, emotional or sexual violence with 7% having experienced sexual violence. So often this goes unreported for fear of stigma or through lack of support services. For those who do seek help the vast majority turn to family (65%) followed by neighbours (31%) and friends (22%). Only 8% ask help from the police and 2% from social welfare organisations. In areas such as Tipling, where we operate, violence and abduction against girls seems to be treated as a social norm.
The Government of Nepal has made some effort to address the problem of GBV. In 2010 the Ministry of Health and Population in coordination with the Ministry of Women set up hospital based “One-stop Crisis Management Centres” (OCMCs) which now exist in 21 Districts. Through trained staff these were designed to provide 24 hour support to victims of GBV, including psychosocial counselling, coordination with the police, legal services and support from community based organisations. The latter can include access to refuge facilities – at least in theory. But how successful is this in practice?
In an earlier post we told how ChoraChori had become involved in fighting a case of attempted rape on behalf of the victim. This case has now featured in a major report in this week’s Nepali Times. Excellent as that report has been it doesn’t tell the full story. For when the CEO of ChoraChori arrived at the scene he found the office of the OCMC in Dhading locked up. It was a public holiday so he took upon himself the task of finding a lawyer who could support the girl and ensure that the case was filed.
Most shocking of all was the conduct of the police themselves. The victim was seen by a female police officer but was then subject to repeated questioning from male officers. This was intimidating and demeaning for a 14 year old girl whose first language is Tamang rather than Nepali. She was asked questions that seemed to be more for the titillation of the police rather than anything else. Was the rape attempted on a bed or on the floor? Then she was examined by a male doctor who asked her questions in front of her alleged assailant. Small wonder that such a small percentage of female victims report incidents to the police or support services.
ChoraChori will continue to pursue this case. The victim will remain in our protection until the case comes to court and beyond. But, to our disgust, the alleged assailant has been released on bail which could allow him to attempt to influence the girl’s family towards dropping charges. We will be petitioning for him to be remanded in custody. And we have written to the international aid organisation of which his NGO was an implementing partner to let them know what has happened. They too need to be applying pressure to ensure that there is no attempt at cover-up and that the police are encouraged to be rigorous in their enquiries.
ChoraChori will also be appointing a new (female) Child Protection Officer who can be available at a moment’s notice for similar cases in the future. We will ask her to go to the scene of future assaults and liaise with the local authorities – including OCMCs, the police and District Child Welfare Committees – so that cases are filed. Moreover she will build links with government bodies and the police in Kathmandu to ensure that proper procedures are followed and that there is no impunity for perpetrators of GBV, including sexual assault.