Breaking the Silence Shrouding Violence against Women: Socio-Political Accountability towards Women’s Human Rights
“ …Utherabole hawa le lagthyo- basera bole musa le sunthyo” meaning “…if I stood up and spoke the wind took away my voice and if I sat down only the mouse heard …”
“…from thinking of it as our ‘fate’ to tolerate violence we now know it is our ‘right’ to live a life free of violence…”
“…After tolerating four months of eccentric and physical behavior of my ex-husband, my parents realized all was not good. Family members tried to mediate the situation but I finally opted for divorce, otherwise I would either be dead or in a mental asylum by now…”
Expressions from eighty four year old, forty two year old and twenty six year old women respectively reflect the changing perception and mindset of women towards violence against women (VAW).
The paper highlights the menace of VAW universally and in Nepal. Even to this day, society attributes blame to the female victims for provocation or inviting violence upon them by their disobedience and failure as a wife or infidelity. VAW at the family level, community and by State was considered as ‘women’s only’ issue. Physical, emotional, traditional practices harmful to women, social and cultural norms and economic deprivation, were considered as corrective measures, further sanctioned by religious interpretation to put women in their right place. The political transformation of the country to democracy in 1990 and the environment of overall social transformation opened avenues for gender advocates and NGOs to break their silence on this universal menace. The world conferences on women, especially the Fourth World Conference outcome in the form of Beijing Platform for Action gave momentum for addressing the issue and almost two decades of advocacy, lobbying and persistent struggle by women’s rights groups have culminated in the formulation and amendment of constitutional provisions, laws and policies to address the issue in Nepal. How these gains can be preserved and actions against VAW at all levels can be strengthened across the country , in all federating states given their cultural traditions is an issue at hand, which has been explored to some extent in this paper. Politicization of crime, patriarchal mindset resulting in unwillingness to treat the issue as a social and development issue, corruption and bad governance are factors restricting women from enjoying their basic human rights as conferred by the UDHR 1947. However, as the movement to be organized and demand for right and justice to victims of violence has started, we can be hopeful that women will be able to enjoy their basic human rights through gender equality. Media played a crucial role in highlighting the issue and to raise awareness regarding fate versus right. Increase in reporting of VAW cases in the police and other relevant institutions, proves that silence shrouding the issue is dissolving and socio political accountability is increasing.