GENDER - BASED VIOLENCE
Gender-based Violence (GBV) is defined as “harmful acts directed towards any individual based on their gender” and is a serious human rights violation. The instances of GBV can take place not only in public settings but also in domestic spaces. GBV is deeply rooted in pre-existing gender inequality which takes various forms namely physical, sexual, economic, or psychological violence. While GBV can affect any gender, historical trends have shown that girls and women have been more vulnerable to GBV. In addition, sexual and gender minorities (SGM) that include LGBTI and other populations have also been vulnerable to violence. GBV can be taken as one of the pronounced expressions of unequal gender power relations.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is considered a global crisis that has affected the lives of innumerable populations around the world. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that every 1 in 3 women globally is likely to experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. As per the WHO, more than a quarter of women between the ages of 15 and 49 who are in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual abuse from an intimate partner at least once since turning 15 years old. Lifetime estimates of intimate partner violence prevalence range from 20% in the Western Pacific, 22% in high-income nations and Europe, and 25% in the WHO Regions of the Americas to 33% in the WHO African region, 31% in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean region, and 33% in the WHO South-East Asia region.
Up to 38% of all female homicides worldwide are the result of romantic relationships. In addition to intimate partner violence, 6% of women worldwide claim to have experienced non-partner sexual assault, while data on non-partner sexual violence are scarcer. The majority of intimate relationship and sexual violence against women is committed by men. The majority of this violence occurs between intimate partners. Nearly a third (27%) of women aged 15 to 49 who have been in a relationship worldwide say their intimate partner has abused them physically or sexually in some way. A girl or a woman is said to be killed by someone in her family every 11 minutes as per UN Office on Drugs and Crime (2020).
As per the World Bank, Nepal ranks 14 among the 15 countries when it comes to the global prevalence of intimate partner physical violence. Additionally, it has been stated that one-third of married women have endured emotional, physical, or sexual abuse at the hands of their spouse. Beyond violence from personal partners, women also experience sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from strangers as well as from people they know in their families, communities, or places of employment. In Nepal, violence against women and girls is also a result of dowry and witchcraft accusations. An increase in cases recorded shows how serious of a problem GBV is in Nepal. Between July 2021 and July 2022, there were 21,568 reported cases according to the Nepal Police. WOREC’s Annual Fact Sheet on Gender-Based Violence for the period of July 2021 to June 2022 reveals that among these cases, 65% involved Domestic Violence, 29% were instances of Physical Violence, 16% were cases of Sexual Violence, and 53% were related to Dowry issues in the Madesh Province. The report also highlights that 35% of rape cases involved perpetrators who were neighbors, and 58% of witchcraft allegations were made by neighbors as well. Across various forms of violence, the majority of perpetrators were found to be husbands, lovers, family members, or individuals known to the victims.
Globally, the effort to end GBV aligns with Sustainable Development Goal 5, which encompasses targets related to Gender Equality. GBV was designated as a form of discrimination by the CEDAW Committee in 1992 and acknowledged as a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in 1993. Relevant international frameworks include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), UN Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Violence against Women and Girls (VAGW) (1993), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), and the 2030 Agenda featuring the SDGs.
Nationally, Nepal has certainly adopted gender-responsive legislation and policies that formally protect women’s rights, prohibit discrimination, and guarantee the protection of women’s rights. These legislations include the Human Trafficking and Transportation Act (2007), Domestic Violence (Crime and Control) Act (2009), Caste Based Discrimination and Untouchability Act (Offense and Punishment) (2011), Witchcraf-related Accusation (Crime and Punishment) Act (2014), Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Elimination) Act (2015), Constitution of Nepal (particularly Article 38(3)) (2015), Act to Amend Some Nepal Acts for Maintaining Gender Equality and Ending Gender Based Violence (2015), Country Criminal Code and the Country Civil Code, along with the Country Civil Procedure Code and the Country Criminal Procedure Code (2017), the Rights of Persons with Disability Act (2017), Right to Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Act (2018) and Crime Victims Protection Act (2018). There are also prominent National Policies, Strategies, and other Documents in Nepal which discuss GBV. Despite multiple legislation in place, there have been discussions around its efficiency and effectiveness in relation to the reported and recorded cases of GBV in Nepal indicating the gaps in the implementation of the provisions mentioned in the legislation.