Acting together to end gender-based violenceCrimes against women and girls have increased in Nepal, with 21,568 cases reported between July 2021 to July 2022.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a violation of human rights worldwide. In Nepal, GBV affects more than one in four women and girls. It is one of the most extreme forms of gender inequality, and it severely undermines Nepal’s ability to achieve sustainable development for all.
GBV takes multiple forms—physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial. It occurs in both private and public, including online, and happens throughout the lives of women, girls, and those who are gender non-conforming. However, many victims suffer in silence. The true scale of GBV in Nepal is underreported and underestimated since only one-third of women who experience physical or sexual violence seek help. Experiences of violence are also exacerbated for those who already face discrimination based on their disability, caste, or ethnicity, limiting their access to protection, treatment, and justice.
The scale of GBV in Nepal
According to estimates of Nepal Police, crimes against women and girls have increased at an alarming rate, with 21,568 cases reported between July 2021 to July 2022. In Nepal, as in other countries, the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters have led to more incidents of GBV, with rural and low-income women and girls at higher risk, as well as those who lack formal education. Age and marital status matter as well. Women married before age 19 are more likely to experience violence by their husbands than those who marry later, according to the 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey.
Despite the scale of GBV in Nepal, survivors have limited access to help and the organisations that do exist operate with very limited resources. One of the most critical services in the country—the One Stop Crisis Management Centres—offer health care, psychosocial counselling, legal protection and rehabilitation to survivors. But there are still only 88 of these centres across Nepal, and many of them face challenges, like poor infrastructure and a lack of training for staff members.
Engaging men and boys
Rigid social norms around masculinity are one of the driving causes of GBV. Deep-rooted ideas about what it means to “be a man” are formed early in boys’ lives, especially within their families and peer groups. Young boys are often discouraged from crying, and as they grow older, their capacity for violence is often celebrated, with inappropriate behaviour being reinforced through phrases like “boys will be boys.”
Men’s use of violence as adults remains a common, socially accepted way to assert their masculinity. Research suggests that childhood exposure to violence increases a person's likelihood of experiencing or perpetrating violence later in life and that men and boys are the main perpetrators of violence. Too often, women victims are blamed instead of men perpetrators, with mainstream media reinforcing this idea.
The lives of boys and men are also damaged by rigid ideas of masculinity. The societal expectation that boys and men must be the “breadwinners” of their families often places intense pressure on them, causing them distress, especially during bad economic times or when men face poor labour conditions, such as low wages or abuse from employers. With more options and freedom to fully express themselves, boys and men will lead happier and fuller lives. There is a lot boys and men can gain from gender equality—and the fight to eradicate GBV must include them.
Ways you can help
Gender equality is key to development. Without eradicating gender-based violence, gender equality cannot be achieved. As we go into the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, an annual international campaign that kicks off today, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day, we must speak out against all forms of GBV and urgently push for changes at personal, family, community, and institutional levels. GBV is not inevitable. It can and must be prevented. The International Development Partners and agencies are committed to enhancing gender equality in Nepal, together with all stakeholders. Here are some ways to make a difference:
1)Remember that change begins with you. Examine your own behaviours and biases that permit a culture of GBV to continue.
2)Speak up to prevent GBV. Take a stand by calling it out when you see it. “Eve teasing,” inappropriate sexual comments and sexist jokes are often warning signs of acceptance of more serious sexual discrimination and harassment.
3)Adopt gender-responsive parenting. Challenge gender stereotypes at home and let your family know it’s okay to be different. Promote an equal sharing of household chores. Teach about enthusiastic consent, bodily autonomy, and accountability.
4)Engage men and boys. Transform masculinity into something positive by emphasising values like equality, respect, and dignity.
5)Believe survivors. Learn about signs of abuse and ways you can help yourself or other victims of GBV find safety and support.
6)Support services for survivors, including girls, as well as GBV prevention programmes for children, that can help break intergenerational abuse.
7)Amplify the voices of women leaders. Support the work of women and girls from diverse backgrounds, like women who come from ethnic and religious minorities, women from traditionally disadvantaged caste groups, women with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
8)Enable an environment where women’s rights activists can speak without fear. Advocate for laws and services to protect women’s rights activists from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
9)Increase women’s representation. Promote the leadership of women and girls in all decision-making spaces, particularly women who face multiple forms of oppression.
10)Support women and youth-led organisations. Increase long-term, sustainable, and flexible funding for women’s rights organisations and feminist movements.
One individual experiencing GBV is one too many. We must unite so that we can end GBV once and for all.
By Ambassadors of the EU, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK and representatives of FAO, ILO, IOM, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOPS, WFP, WHO, UN Women, and World Bank.