NEPAL: Pushing back against Domestic Violence

KATHMANDU, 28 September 2010 (IRIN) – Across Nepal, which has declared 2010 the year to end gender-based violence, women continue to fall victim. The village of Shipawa is one Nepalese community in which the issue is particularly apparent.

Three women there demonstrate the depth of the problem and share a determination for justice: Yadev, a 60-year-old widow, dispossessed of her land and who deals with constant death threats; Amarawati, a mother-of-four, beaten for failing to provide a male heir; and Pushpa, a gang rape survivor, now pursuing justice and supporting other victims of violence.

Pushpa is 42 years old. Her home is a small wooden roofed building, with a dirt floor. It has become a focal point for women in search of emotional support in the community and women often come to sit and talk through their problems here.

“My old husband paid someone 50,000 rupees to break my leg,” Pushpa recounts. “He also hit my back with a hammer. I was bed-ridden for three months. At the same time as the attack, he organized six people to rape me. He was hoping I would commit suicide.”

For women like Pushpa, the cultural and religious norms that shape relationships between men and women in Nepali society mean that women are regarded as commodities, not as human beings with rights and dreams.

Women rarely have access to their own money and are politically marginalized. As a result, their husbands feel they have a right to control them – often through violent means.

According to CARE Nepal, 95 percent of women and girls have experienced violence first-hand, with 77 percent of cases perpetrated by family members.

Community group

After the attack, Pushpa, increasingly concerned for her security, and with no financial means to support herself or her children, joined a community group supported by CARE. This gave her the confidence to file a legal case against her husband.

“I filed a case against him for half our property and was told I could also file one for polygamy. He keeps trying to meet me so he can make me drop the case. I would rather die than meet with him.”

For women like Amarawati the group has been a life-saver. When Pushpa first visited Amarawati she spent her days lying on a straw strewn bed next to a cow. Her face was swollen and eyes blackened from where her husband had beaten her for days for failing to produce a son.

The community group that Pushpa is a part of met Amarawati and her husband. Since then, he has stopped beating her and they have both become involved in a campaign to end gender-based violence.

“People in the community now know they will be held to account,” Pushpa says. 

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