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Dr Neeti Aryal Khanal on the elimination of violence against women

Posted: 27 November 2019

Nepal, Alumni, Impact,

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, Australian Awards alumna, Dr Neeti Aryal Khanal, an academic in Nepal, shares her view on the significance of this day.

According to the United Nations (UN), one in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. To raise awareness against such violence, the UN has designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day marks the start of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Dr Neeti Aryal Khanal, an academic by profession, has recently completed her PhD from Monash University, where she studied the complex intersections of marginalisation and poor reproductive health of marginalised women. She has also been involved in various research projects on the issue of violence against women for more than a decade.

How do you assess the status of violence against women in Nepal?

“The violence that Nepali women are suffering from is alarming. The most recent Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (2016) shows that nearly a quarter (22%) of Nepali women aged from 15 experience physical violence and 7% have experienced sexual violence. This data reflects the magnitude of domestic violence only. As Nepali women have begun working in formal and informal sectors outside their home, they also tend to experience sexual harassment at the workplace. Similarly, the nature of violence against women (VAW) has transformed as the access and usage of information technology from Nepali people have increased. There has been a drastic increase of online violence and internet harassment in Nepal.

“However, it is promising to see that there has been an increase in the awareness of VAW. Strong legal policies have been formulated; and there is a greater engagement of civil society organisations. Despite these promising changes, justice to women survivors is still a far-fetched idea. Nepal is still recovering from the aftermath of a decade long conflict and devastating earthquakes. Nepali society is still in transition, and families affected by conflict are still grappling with transitional justice. These political contexts have increased the impunity and survivors of VAW are affected. Due to the stigma attached to the survivors of violence, very few cases are reported to the police and presented in court. For example, studies show that compared to the last decade, there has been a 256% increase in reporting of rape cases. But the conviction rate is quite low, and survivors rarely get justice. Particularly in case of violence against marginalised women, perpetrators who have access to nexus of political power and influence interfere with the process of justice.”

What are the main causes of violence against women in Nepal?

“There are social, cultural and political contexts that make Nepali women more vulnerable to violence. We have an unequal society, where gender and caste-based discriminations are perceived as social norms; these norms, unfortunately, govern not only the society but also the political institutions. In most families, decisions concerning women’s life events and even their bodies are often taken by men. The daughter is often seen as a liability of parents, someone who needs to be married off to another family. In the private sphere, Nepali women are vulnerable to various forms of violence within the family. Young girls and women who are financially dependent upon their family members tend to be more vulnerable.”

How do you assess the significance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days Activism against Gender-Based Violence?

“These occasions are important reminders for us to continue our ongoing activism on it. However, we should not be limited to a symbolic celebration alone. They should be seen as an energiser for us to continue our advocacy to eliminate violence against women. Taking stock of our past achievements, we should plan and make strategies about our future steps to eliminate violence against women and girls.”

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and as part of 16 Days Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network – Nepal will be organising an interactive workshop on ‘Addressing violence in the workplace: Experiences, culture and practices,’ on 2 December 2019 in Kathmandu.