Gender Based Violence is one of the worst forms of gender discrimination and inequality. In Nepal, Gender Based Violence takes many forms, ranging from child marriage, forced marriage and dowry-related violence through domestic violence, trafficking and prostitution to child sexual abuse and harmful traditional practices such as kumari, jhuma, kamalari and chhaupadi.
Sexual exploitation and abuse, which can be defined as ‘any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes, including but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another’, is the worst form of Gender Based Violence. Women and adolescent girls most vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse include sex workers, workers at dance bars and cabin restaurants, migrant workers, detainees and prisoners, the disabled, and those living in poverty or living with HIV/AIDS. Humanitarian crises are another situation during which girls and women are particular vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse. Exploitative practices and abuse are often perpetuated in the name of culture and tradition, which views women as subservient, weak and in need of male protection. The greatest risk of sexual exploitation and abuse among women comes from family members, neighbours and other people they already know.
The most important root causes of sexual exploitation and abuse include poverty, conflict and displacement, a patriarchal social structure, and a weak governance system. Combined, these create an environment in which women and girls are subject to a subordinated status and are more likely to be subjugated by men. Analysis of two national maternal mortality and morbidity studies shows that income poverty and social exclusion are contributing to female suicide. Women whose parents are poor and depend on their husbands are at higher risk of sexual violence.
Women face ingrained discrimination because of the patriarchal nature of society, and are further disadvantaged depending on their caste, ethnicity and geographic location. Patriarchal social values and norms are reflected in many cultural and religious, economic, legal and political practices. The socialization of children inculcates a belief that women are the weaker sex and need the protection of men, are less intelligent, and their actions should be restricted to within the household.
Many initiatives have been undertaken to address the issues of gender based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse by the government, civil society and international organizations, including the UN. The 2007 Interim Constitution recognizes women’s fundamental rights and prohibits physical, mental or other forms of violence against women, declaring these punishable by law. The Amendment of Some Nepalese Acts to Establish Gender Equality Act 2006 (commonly known as the Gender Equality Act) repealed and amended 56 discriminatory provisions and incorporated other provisions to ensure women’s rights. In terms of service delivery, the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has created 15 Women’s Service Centres and 84 Women’s Community Service Centres.
In the period ranging from 2013 to 2017, the UN Country Team in Nepal will make a difference through various initiatives, including through ensuring that psycho social counselors have improved capacity to provide good counseling services to women subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, that survivors of trafficking have access to skills training and employment opportunities, that the health system has a better capacity for coordinated responses to sexual and gender based violence, that media has increased knowledge and capacity to sensitively handle issues related to victims of human trafficking, that networks of interfaith leaders, media, recruiting agencies, men and boys have increased capacity to advocate against gender discrimination and sexual and gender based violence, that the capacity of the state machinery to deal with sexual and gender based violence improves and that it protects the rights of survivors to confidentiality, that survivors of trafficking are better enabled to access the justice system.
For more information, please see the following analysis of women subject to sexual abuse and exploitation from the Country Analysis.
The full Country Analysis is available here; http://un.org.np/reports/country-analysis-2011
The United Nations Development Assistance Framework is available here: http://un.org.np/reports/undaf-2013-2017