Women need to speak up against domestic violence

KATHMANDU: A large number of victims of domestic violence are scared to lodge complaint against the perpetrators though the Domestic Violence and Punishment Bill 2065 ensures punishment for the perpetrators.

Women experts and women human rights activists want the victims to break the silence and file complaints against the perpetrators. Talking to The Himalayan Times, Banadana Rana, president of Saathi, a non-government organisation working to eliminate violence and injustice against women and children, as well as coordinator of National Network against Domestic Violence, said complaints from the victims were few and far between.

She said, “Though the government endorsed the bill against domestic violence, its implementation is still a great challenge due to the lack of regulations and other mechanism needed to implement it.”

She added that though the new bill allowed even the third party to file complaints against domestic violence, she was yet to come across any such complaint.

She said, “We have launched Commitment to Action: Campaign Against Domestic Violence to

mark 16 days of activism on

violence against women to raise awareness among the public, encourage them to complain in the respective sectors and to get their feedback about the law so that we can suggest to the government any amendment, if necessary.”

Saathi has been running three shelter homes for gender violence victims for the last 15 years in Kathmandu, Nepalgunj and Kapilbastu, where 90 per cent of those who come to seek shelter are victims of domestic violence, she added.

The 16-day drive begins every year on November 25 to raise awareness on gender violence. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, with the theme: Commit, Act, Demand: We can end violence against women.

“The suppression of women and violence against them has already crossed all limits,” said Nain Kala Thapa, president of National Women’s Commission. “If we raise our voice against domestic violence and penalise the perpetrators, only then can we get our rights,” added Thapa. “Fearing social stigma, women rather suffer, and in extreme cases kill themselves, when the violence is unendurable but won’t file a case against the perpetrators. We need to change this trend.”

Mira Dhungana, a senior advocate, said the endorsement of the bill was a boon for the victims of domestic violence. She said, “The bill has privileged the victims to lodge complaints against perpetrators to get justice. But not many women are speaking against the perpetrators, who are often their nearest kin.”

She lauded Suntali Dhami, a policewoman who was raped by her co-workers a few months back and lodged a complaint against the rapist involved.

In an exclusive interview to THT a few weeks back, Suntali Dhami, said, “Despite my family’s disapproval to speak about the rape, I revealed the fact because it was intolerable.” She had alleged, “I went to the in-charge of Achham District Police Office but he refused to lodge a complaint. An attempt was made to take me hostage but I managed to escape and arrived in Kathmandu to seek justice.”

She hoped that she would get justice, otherwise women would lose faith in law and other state mechanisms and no victim would dare to voice their suffering.

While speaking at a programme to mark the 16-day drive against domestic violence, she appealed to the women who had been suffering domestic violence for decades to break their silence and show zero tolerance towards violence meted out against them.

The Domestic Violence and Punishment Bill defines physical, mental, sexual, financial, as well as behavioral violence, as domestic violence. The bill adds that the victim can file a complaint at the local body, police station or NWC. If the cases are not sorted within 30 days, the same would be filed in the district court within 15 days.

The bill guarantees the right of every individual to live with dignity in the society and punish the perpetrators of violence to control violence inside homes. Another objective of the bill is to safeguard the rights of the victims.

The bill is applicable to ‘family relations’, including descendents, relations through marriage, adopted sons and daughters, joint family members, dependents and domestic workers of the family.

The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare will establish ‘Safe House’ cum service centres in 15 districts for the victims of domestic violence for the first time to ensure security, treatment and rehabilitation. Such centres will provide victims with legal aid and psychological counselling.

Last fiscal year, the ministry had set up three safe houses for the trafficked women in Kathmandu, Kavre and Kailali districts. It plans to set up four safe houses in Rupendehi, Jhapa, Bara and Parsa districts in the current fiscal year.

MoWCSW official Komal Dhamala said the establishment of ‘safe houses’ was one of the initiatives in accordance with the recently passed Domestic Violence and Punishment Bill, which mentions the security of victims in case of their inability to return home after victimisation.

Panchtha, Sunsari, Solukhumbu, Saptari, Sarlahi, Makawanpur, Nawalparasi, Tanahun, Kavre, Baglung, Jumla, Dang, Bardiya, Doti and Kanchanpur are the districts that will have safe houses soon.

The bill has a provision of slapping the perpetrators of domestic violence with up to six months of imprisonment and Rs 25,000 fine, and half the punishment to accomplices. In case of physical or psychological injuries to the victim, the perpetrator will have to bear the treatment cost.

A person once found guilty of perpetrating domestic violence will face double the penalties for each new offence of domestic violence. The bill ensures 10 per cent extra punishment to those who are engaged in public service.

The women rights activists have welcomed the formulation of bill against domestic violence. Still its implementation is a challenge. Recently, a complaints unit was established in the Prime Minister’s Office but the rights activists have been demanding the establishment of such units from village development committee to central level, as well as proper monitoring for the effective implementation of the bill.