Background: Domestic violence is a criminal offence under the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Act, 2008, in Nepal. One third of married women, 18-65 years of age, have experienced physical, mental, and sexual violence primarily in a family setting, but reporting of these experiences to the criminal justice system (CJS) is rare because of social norms to accept the violence and stigma attached to disclosing experience of violence1-7. Little is known about help-seeking from the CJS among domestic violence survivors (DVS), and it has yet to be explored service providers’ perspectives on this issue in Nepal. Aims: This qualitative phenomenological study8 aims to understand the perspective of frontline service providers (policemen) of Nepal’s CJS on barriers, facilitators, strengths, and challenges related to help-seeking and service utilization behavior of DVS.
Method: One male and five female policemen, currently working for DVS in Kathmandu, were purposively sampled and interviewed using the health belief model sensitized interview guidelines. Researcher recorded, transcribed, translated to English from Nepali, and coded data. Research rigor was ensured by consulting the interview guide with experts and verifying translation with native English speakers. Data was triangulated with observational data and memos.
Findings: Content analysis revealed four major themes: 1) Domestic Violence is Universal; 2) Domestic Violence is Suppressed; 3) Above and Beyond Pen and Paper; and 4) Bottom up Approach for System Improvement. Social stigma and fear embedded in patriarchal culture are main barriers to seeking formal help, while awareness, education, intolerance, and Kathmandu residence are facilitators.
Discussion: Frontline service providers administer multiple services for DVSs including counseling, prosecuting perpetrators, first aid, and connecting resources with needs or formal training. Limited resources, congested infrastructure, and social norms and culture are major challenges of the CJS.
Implication: Findings will be useful for policy makers to improve the CJS system and for public health professionals to develop domestic violence education and prevention programs.
Summary: Domestic violence is highly prevalent, yet suppressed in Nepal. Frontline service providers are the strong foundation of CJS; however, it is an urgent need to enhance the infrastructure of the Nepali CJS system to efficiently manage domestic violence.