No let-up in cases of violence against women and children during lockdownOn average 53 cases of violence against women and children are reported daily across the country, according to records maintained by police.
On Saturday, the Area Police Office, Chandrapur in Rautahat district arrested a 42-year-old man on the charge of throwing acid into the face of his 38-year-old wife.
According to police, the couple are residents of ward-4 of Chandrapur Municipality and during a fight, the man had attacked the woman with acid, which is used to clean gold by jewelers.
The woman was rushed to the Apollo City Hospital in Chure and further investigation into the case is underway, the police office said in a press statement.
In another case of crime against women, the Metropolitan Police Circle, Satdobato, Lalitpur arrested a 24-year-old man on Saturday morning on the charge of raping a woman of his age.
The accused, who is originally from Ramechhap district, lived in a rented room at ward 28 of Lalitpur Metropolitan City. Police said they are investigating the case.
These two incidents are the latest in a series of brutal attacks on women that have increased markedly during the pandemic.
According to the data provided by Nepal Police, in three months, from February 13 to May 14, a total of 4, 773 cases of violence against women and children have been reported. As per the data on average 53 such cases are reported daily across the country.
The data include cases related to rape, attempted rape, allegations of witchcraft, polygamy, domestic violence, rape and murder and kidnapping. And 88 percent of the cases involved either domestic violence or rape.
Nepal Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Basanta Bahadur Kunwar said cases of violence against women and children have been rising every day despite most of the country remaining under prohibitory orders because the majority of perpetrators involved family members and acquaintances who saw the victims as easy targets.
“In the past, cases related to domestic violence and gender-based violence used to be underreported as many victims and their families would not come forward fearing for their reputation,” said Kunwar.
“However, now there are many organisations supporting the victims and survivors, so more such cases are being reported,” said Kunwar. “Considering the sensitivity of such cases, Nepal Police has been using well-trained female officers to investigate the cases in a friendly environment while maintaining the privacy of the victims.”
As per the Domestic Violence (Offense and Punishment) Act 2009, “Domestic violence refers to any form of physical, mental, sexual and economic harm perpetrated by a person to a person with whom he/she has a family relationship and this word also includes any acts of reprimand or emotional harm.”
According to Kunwar, the victims can report a crime to the police by calling at 100 or 104. The complaints can also be lodged through the social media sites of Nepal Police like Twitter and Facebook.
Besides Nepal Police, various organisations such as Nepal Red Cross Society, Asha Crisis Centre, Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO), WOREC and National Women Commission have been operating helpline services and offering counselling, legal services, therapy sessions through phone calls and social media for gender-based violence victims even during the pandemic.
According to an operator of 1145, a national helpline to report gender-based violence, as many as nine employees are available round-the-clock to provide counselling to victims.
“Majority of the calls we receive are related to husband-wife fight or rape cases,” said the operator without mentioning their name as they are not allowed to speak to the media. “If an incident is recent and if we think the victim is in need of counselling, then we connect the victim to our psychosocial counsellor and if we feel the victim is in immediate danger then we notify the local police.”
Even in normal times, cases of domestic and gender-based violence are considered highly underreported. So, there are concerns that this trend will continue also during the Covid-19 lockdown, which could make things worse, as women are stuck with the abusers and cannot reach police stations or shelter homes on their own for support.
According to WOREC, an organisation working to combat violence against women and children, during the first one month of the lockdown between April 29 and May 29, a total of 200 cases of violence against women and children from across the country have been recorded in the organisation. The organization recorded the cases through its hotlines, psychologists, women rights defenders, women’s community organizations and members working in 18 districts.
According to WOREC, this is a slight decline compared to a month prior to the lockdown when a total of 221 cases of violence against women and children were reported between March 14 and April 13.
For Sulochana Khanal, senior program officer at WOREC, the 200 cases, which were recorded during the lockdown through the phone alone, is a high number. “Most of our victims visit the nearest office to seek assistance from us and for counselling, however, during the lockdown all complaints were registered through phone and this figure is high,” Khanal told the Post.
Khanal believes that as a majority of women are locked with their abusive husbands, many do not dare to file complaints with police or organisations out of fear.
WOREC has been analysing the crime data every 15 days and it has found that most of the complaints it receives include domestic violence. Among the 200 cases recorded, 45 percent were related to domestic violence.
“Women are often abused verbally, physically and mentally over dowry, or for giving birth to a girl child or being childless even after being married for years,” said Khanal. “Many of these victims are also deprived of the most essential needs and services.”
She said as many families have seen their incomes lost or reduced due to the pandemic and the lockdown and are under financial strain, disputes and quarrels involving husband and wife have increased.
Helplines to contact if you or someone you know have faced domestic abuse and want to report:
National Women Commission helpline: 1145
Asha Crisis Center 24 helpline: 9801193088
Transcultural Psychosocial Organization helpline: 16600102005
Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare (MOWCSC): 1618014200082
Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC): 16600178910
Shakti Samuha: 16600111117