Nepal: Tackling domestic violence not for the faint-hearted
|Publisher||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)|
|Publication Date||5 January 2009|
|Cite as||Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Nepal: Tackling domestic violence not for the faint-hearted, 5 January 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/496321d9c.html [accessed 20 November 2014]|
KAVRE, 5 January 2009 (IRIN) - Being a community-based mediator in domestic violence cases is not for the faint-hearted.
Saru Tamang has been slapped, verbally abused and threatened by male members of her village in Kavre District when she has gone to mediate in domestic violence cases. The village has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country, say local rights activists.
"But nothing discouraged me. I have been trained to endure abuse until I achieve my goal," Tamang told IRIN.
Tamang is among 88 women in the district to have recently completed training as a peer pressure volunteer to prevent, detect and respond to any form of violence.
"The work is very challenging but the impact of mediation is already showing," said Rangaraj Dhungana, executive director of local NGO National Health Foundation (NHF), which provided the training with the support of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
The volunteers were also trained to raise awareness of the impact of violence on reproductive health among new mothers and pregnant women.
Lack of laws
Domestic violence is widespread, says the National Women's Commission, a government body - a view shared by human rights NGO Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) which says assault, group beatings by in-laws, dowry-related murders and mental torture are quite common.
The lack of laws against domestic violence means perpetrators often get away with it, activists said.
"Violence against women takes place even for simple reasons, like cooking bad food, waking up late or not providing enough dowry," said Subhadra Ale, a police officer from the Nepal Police Women's cell in Janakpur, Dhanusa District, 400km southeast of Kathmandu. The city has one of the worst records of violence against women, according to unofficial police records.
Mediation is best?
Many police and lawyers in Janakpur agree that community-based mediation has so far proven to be the best way of tackling the problem.
"Our focus is on the protection of the victimised women. So far mediation seems to be effective and has positive results," lawyer Balkrishna Karki of the Legal Aid Consultancy Centre (LACC) told IRIN.
LACC is a prominent NGO providing free legal support to impoverished families and women unable to afford the services of lawyers.
The NGO has also been training social workers, government health staff, police and political activists to work as peer pressure volunteers to mediate in the community to reduce gender-based violence.
The mediation usually involves counselling, with both victim and abuser sitting together.
"Right now, mediation is key to preventing further violence and failure to use this [method] could make the situation worse for women," said activist Hemlata Sigdel, field coordinator of the Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), a national women's rights NGO.
Sigdel also sounded an optimistic note, saying victims and abusers were now approaching volunteers like her to mediate in their domestic problems.