by Renu Rajbhandari, Nepal
Violence against women continues to be a challenge for post-conflict Nepal. According to available data two cases of rape are reported on average each day. WOREC Nepal, an organization working on violence against women (VAW) registered 1703 cases from August 2012 to July 2013. The survivors face numerous challenges due to the ever increasing impunity and lack of access to justice mechanisms in the country.
Despite this reality, the Government of Nepal has been applauded by the international community for its National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to effectively address the increasing numbers of VAW in the country. Almost seven years have passed since the signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Nepal Communist Party-NCPN (Maoist) and the seven mainstream parties for ensuring peace and security. Although peace and security for the people was central to signing the CPA, implementation remains mainly unmet while the parties work to obtain power and maintain control over national resources.
Up to this period, the peace dividend largely remains with the leaders at the central level leaving the larger section of people powerless. Political instability has been used by the political party and the government to continue the culture of impunity. It is very important to note that reintegration of Maoist soldiers into the Nepal army was one among many other agendas such as constitution drafting, transformation of the country socially and economically, and truth seeking and justice for people affected by conflict . However, reintegration of the Maoist army has taken most of the time and has remained one of the highest priorities. This process has contributed to a deeper militarized mindset within society. The militarization process has affected the people’s collective mindset and the government’s priorities have contributed to the culture of impunity, making it difficult for women to access justice. The difficult, complicated and lengthy court process along with discriminatory laws compounded with unchanged attitudes and practices of security, judicial and health services has posed further challenges for women and those advocating for an end to gender-based violence and access to justice.
Similarly, extremist ideas such as demanding Nepal again become an officially Hindu country, the emergence of different religious groups, a faster rate of conversion to religion, and different forms of identity-based politics are being used to maintain the status quo among political parties. This has also contributed to the failure of the Constitutional Assembly (CA) in finalizing a constitution. This situation has extended to the level that political parties couldn’t come to a consensus for the creation of the government, though they eventually agreed to bring the Chief Justice and retired bureaucrats to form the government. All this has largely impacted women and exacerbated the occurrence of VAW, which remains at the bottom of priorities for the government and the political parties. There is a lack of interest and effort to create the environment for access to justice for women.
Currently, with the announcement of the elections for a new CA, the militarization process has become more visible. There is a consensus and agreement among the political party and government to mobilize the army under the name of maintaining security during the election. This has largely ignored other issues which are key to addressing sustainable peace in Nepal. Issues related to transitional justice and creation of mechanisms to address violence perpetuated against women during the conflict has not been given space for serious and thoughtful discussion
among political parties or within government.
In this situation, the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign is a key space for women’s rights activists to bring issues such as investigation of cases of sexual violence against women during the conflict, and unresolved disappearances of their family members. The Campaign gives an opportunity to bring to attention the increased practice of gender-based violence and impunity, as well as the increasing difficulty to access justice by victims.
The question remains: Despite the militarized mindset of the government and the newly elected CA members, who will address these issues that affect women on numerous levels as a priority?
Renu Rajbhandari is a prominent human rights defender and medical doctor in Nepal and has been at the forefront of organizing communities to voice their concerns. She was appointed as National Rapporteur against trafficking in women and children under National Human rights commission and is the founder chairperson of the Women Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), as well as other groups.