Unequal equality

It is unfortunate that even after two decades of persistent advocacy for women’s rights and government’s commitments at various international conferences to promote gender equality, violence against women continues unabated. From a total of 569 cases of domestic violence reported at the Women Police Cell in 2059/60, the figure jumped to 922 in 2060/61. The rise, experts say, is due to weak and corrupt control mechanisms that provide no concrete protection to the victims. More importantly, the figures do not indicate the actual number of women suffering from mental, physical or financial tortures as they seldom come out of their homes and fight for their rights, thanks to the traditional “communal constraints” and societal pressures. The conflict situation is said to have further aggravated the problem, as a high percentage of women are now displaced and have thus become more vulnerable targets.

According to gender activists, thousands of women are unable to report to the police or are deprived of legal redress either due to absence of courts in the remote areas or because they fear reprisal from the perpetrators. Rape, for instance, is narrowly defined as only a vaginal penetration, which means in the eyes of the law an attempt to rape is no case of rape at all. The judges who too are the products of a patriarchal society are often prejudiced against the victims. A change of attitude is therefore necessary as social stigma is attached to injustices already meted out to the females. But for this, it is also urgent that the authorities concerned take a more rights-based approach rather than go only by a protectionist attitude towards women. Violence against women is a ‘multi-dimensional’ issue and thus it warrants policies aimed at not only just controlling violence but also at leading to overall empowerment of women in all facets of life. In this context, the state should strictly adhere to the international conventions and ensure women’s citizenship right and their right to equal property.