Women often face unfair treatment, dealing with violence rooted in people’s mindsets. From domestic violence to dowry issues, many suffer in silence. Many women experience harm in their homes or society, whether through domestic violence, dowry-related issues, or conflicts with family members. This unequal treatment also affects their basic rights in areas like work, society, politics, and culture, making violence against women (VAW) a big problem. According to the news report published in this daily recently, Nepal has seen a surge in domestic violence cases, shedding light on a deeply concerning issue. In the fiscal year 2022/23, a staggering 80 per cent of the 20,753 reported cases of gender-based violence (GBV) were instances of domestic violence. Despite commendable efforts by the government, the effectiveness of these measures remains uncertain, leaving financial abuse often overlooked.
While awareness efforts have led to more reported cases, the actual prevalence is likely to be even higher. Social and cultural values discourage victims from coming forward, disguising the true extent of the problem. The vulnerability of victims is evident, with a significant majority being illiterate homemakers, highlighting the complex factors contributing to domestic violence: social stigma, poverty, and unequal power dynamics. In a society with deep-rooted patriarchal norms, violence against women increases due to these inequalities. The government has implemented various initiatives to eliminate violence against women (VAW), including strategies like proportional inclusive representation, gender equality promotion, economic empowerment, equal property rights assurance, facilitating women's access to justice, and expediting legal procedures. Despite these efforts, the practical effectiveness of curbing such violence remains inadequate. Consequently, there has been a continued increase in incidents of VAW.
One glaring issue is victims' reluctance to pursue legal action. Despite the penalties outlined in the Domestic Violence Act of 2009, many cases end in settlements due to societal pressure and family dependencies. Experts rightly question the system's effectiveness, as the law favours mediation over prosecution. However, not all offences are suitable for mediation, especially those involving physical harm or threats. A review of the legal framework, with a focus on balancing mediation with justice, is crucial. While the government has implemented a programme to address VAW, challenges persist. Budget cuts and coordination issues hinder effective implementation. The transfer of shelter homes from district offices to municipal levels further adds to the disconnect and lack of information about the resources available for survivors. It is imperative for the government to not only address the immediate concerns but also work towards long-term solutions.
A comprehensive programme that tackles the root causes of domestic violence, including economic empowerment, education, and cultural shifts, must be prioritised. Additionally, a re-evaluation of the legal framework, ensuring a balance between mediation and prosecution, is crucial. The recent rise in VAW-related suicides is a stark reminder of the seriousness of the issue. Law enforcement agencies, in collaboration with NGOs and women's rights organisations, must take proactive measures to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The surge in VAW cases demands swift and comprehensive action. A multi-pronged approach, involving legal reforms, increased awareness, and targeted programmes to address the root causes, is necessary. The government must not only allocate sufficient resources but also ensure their efficient execution at both local and national levels. It is time to turn the tide against domestic violence and create a society where everyone, regardless of gender, can live free from the fear of abuse.