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Stronger Together: Better coordination needed for effective GBV response

Article 38 of The Constitution of Nepal, 2015, states that “No woman shall be subjected to physical, mental, sexual, psychological or other forms of violence or exploitation.” Yet, according to the World Bank, in 2017 149 people were killed as a result of gender-based violence (GBV) in Nepal. Of these, 140 were female, of which 75 were killed because of domestic violence. These are likely underreported figures due to the stigma attached to GBV. With the increase of GBV cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic and prolonged lockdown, how are local-level governmental and non-governmental bodies in Nepal responding?  

On 23 July 2021, the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme, with support from KOICA, organised its third Community of Knowledge (CoK) in partnership with the Forum for Women, Law, and Development (FWLD), entitled “Services and Referral Pathway on GBV: Status and Practice with Reference to Sarlahi District.” Sarlahi was selected as a case study to understand the status and practices of GBV services and referral pathways at local levels.

Renuka Poudel, Deputy Mayor of Hariwan Municipality in Sarlahi, highlighted the establishment of the Judicial Committee following the 2074 Local Government Operation Act. One of the committee’s main functions is to address cases of violence against women and children, including, but not limited to, domestic violence. To date during the 2077/78 fiscal year (2020/21), 300 cases have been registered at the Judicial Committee in Hariwan, out of which 50 are domestic violence-related. Most of these cases were solved within the community or family through reconciliation efforts, as those involved generally believe these should be considered internal matters. Nonetheless, Deputy Mayor Paudel shared that the municipality is currently providing relief and support to GBV survivors as per the nature of the cases. This support includes monetary disbursements and/or referrals for psychological counselling.

Krishna Giri, Police Inspector at the Women, Children and Senior Citizen Service Center of Sarlahi District Police, noted that 729 cases related to domestic violence were reported in the year 2077/78 (2020/21). Nonetheless, Giri said that women in Sarlahi District rarely seek help when faced with violence, partly due to a lack of awareness both at the individual and community level on how law enforcement can provide assistance in GBV cases.

In many parts of Sarlahi District, domestic violence is widely accepted as part of a culture rather than considering as a crime...it is difficult for women to openly speak up about the violence they have suffered, due to various threats and stigma ingrained in society.
Krishna Giri, Police Inspector at Women, Children and Senior Citizen Service Center, Sarlahi Dist

Rohit Kumar Mahara, Public Health Inspector, One-stop Crisis Management Center (OCMC) in Malangwa, Sarlahi, believes that giving psychological counselling and medical assistance to GBV survivors should be a major priority when providing immediate response services. The OCMC plays an important role in providing these services to survivors, after being informed of these cases via social media and/or helpline numbers, as well as through the Police, safe houses, and the Judicial Committee.

Lastly, Banita Baral, Chairperson of the safe house Shanti Mahila Kendra in Malangwa, Sarlahi, shared that the pandemic and lockdown has led to an increase in the number of GBV cases, particularly those related to domestic violence. In general, survivors approach the safe house directly, but the lockdown has created more challenges for those who need help to connect and seek support. Although GBV cases are being addressed by local bodies and the police, there is an important need for more effective coordination between these entities, safe houses, and the OCMC. 

In GBV cases, seeking help is still a challenge, as most women suffer in silence.
Banita Baral, Chairperson, Shanti Mahila Kendra, a safe house in Malangwa, Sarlahi

Anamica Gauchan from UNESCO concluded the session by thanking the speakers and urging everyone to approach issues of access to education, health, social leadership, and legal reforms through a gender lens, as the lack of access to these basic needs is part of a broader form of GBV. While the state has taken initiatives such as legal remedies, social protection, and community mobilization to reduce GBV, continuous efforts are needed to meet and address challenges at the local level. Gauchan highlighted the importance of youth participation and leadership, as well as the need for broader sexuality education for young women and adolescents, in order to raise awareness and reduce GBV cases.

The session, broadcast live on Facebook, has so far received 204,000 views, 2800 reactions, 105 comments, and 98 shares. Comments were primarily surrounding the referral mechanisms adopted by different local-level agencies to provide response services to GBV survivors.

About the UNESCO-UNFPA-UN Women Joint Programme

“Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through the Provision of Comprehensive Sexuality Education and a Safe Learning Environment in Nepal” is a Joint Programme led by UNESCO, UNFPA, and UN Women with support from KOICA aiming to empower girls and young women through an integrated approach to education, health, and gender equality. For more inquiries, contact the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu at kathmandu@unesco.org