Girls and women are verbally, physically and even sexually harassed (and abused) in Nepal — from homes to work places to public places — no different from how it is in most other countries. The difference between countries is probably in the extent and/or in kind.
National dailies publish articles and op-eds displaying very flippant attitudes towards the issue. As a matter of fact, as recently as the end of October, I came across a Nepali article headlining, “It’s True, It’s Fun to Tease Girls!” I followed the link assuming it to be a satire. But I was disappointed…really really disappointed!
Headline: “It’s true! It’s fun to tease girls!”
— Dorje Gurung (@Dorje_sDooing) October 29, 2016
(That is one of the tamer articles I have come across; I have read many articles and op-eds belittling and demeaning our girls and women.)
The streets of Nepal is no different.
Therefore, I wasn’t surprised by the findings of the informal #IWalkFreely online survey of street harassment conducted by Code for Nepal. By October 24 — seven weeks into it — the survey had amassed over 1000 responses with 92% of all respondents and a whopping 98% of women reporting being a victim of harassment (as reported by Asmita Gauchan in Setopati)!
Here are some of the findings:
- 71% harassed in public transportations
- 63% physically harassed in some form
- 63% verbally harassed
- 20% sexual harassed.
- 49% of victims of harassment between the ages of 20 and 29
- over 41% between the ages of 13 and 19
In other words, since an overwhelming female respondents have been victims AND since almost every other victim is a teenager, the demographics harassed the most must be teenaged girls.
Writing for Nepali Times this week, Gauchan, in another instalment of #IWalkFreely, reproduced some of the testimonials of the respondents and provided some update on the findings.
The testimonials are not pleasant to say the least. The psychological trauma and the long-term impact on the victim of those experiences, only they know and suffer through. I say “suffer through” because, sadly, culturally and societally, we are not very sensitive to the issues faced by them, just as Gauchan also alludes to in her Setopati article. Emotional, psychological, psycho-social, social, medical, or legal recourse for such victims — to help them confront, overcome and recover from such experiences — are severely, severely lacking.
As a teenager growing up in the eighties of Nepal, I hardly saw public harassment of girls and women — not because it didn’t happen but probably because I attended an all-boys school and spent most of my time in the company of boys and men.
When harassment incidents did take place, they may NOT have registered due to my acculturation in the highly patriarchal culture and male chauvinistic society of the country. Far from doing much to counter harassments, or working on issues associated with them, I was mostly oblivious to them.
Or, when they did register, being young, I probably did not confront them most likely for fear of being ridiculed or reprimanded.
That I did have issues with some of the ways male members of my community of Tangbetanis treated the female members, and the way the nepalese society, viewed and treated Nepalese females in general, there is no doubt about.
Leaving Nepal in 1988 for the last two years of high school education in Italy, a country with a dramatically different culture, and among fellow students from many other cultures, religions etc., started me on a path of awakening about the plight of girls and women! Since those two years in Italy, reinforced by further education and a long professional career abroad — spanning 25 years and 9 countries — I have tried to do what I can, whenever I can.
The Facebook post shared below is an example of one such act. It describes an incident in which I approached two women who — I thought — had been harassed, with the intention of confronting the perpetrator.
Since sharing the post, I have given some thought to the incident.
It’s entire possible that the ladies were completely taken off-guard! They may not have responded to my query because they may have NEVER had a man on the streets inquire about an incident of harassment.
Or, the explanation maybe as simple as them not understanding my question!
Looking back now, I think I could have elaborated a little more on the question I asked them….
Regardless, THAT, among other things, is what every boy and man can do when one witnesses a girl or women (or a boy or man) being harassed by another person or persons!
In other words, be an ally and offer to help counter it whenever you see it…if you are able!
What do you think?
* * * * * * * *
Nepali Times (Aug. 2012). The voices of their minds.
Nepali Times (April 2002). Was that a blink or a wink?.
Setopati (No date indicated). “It’s True, It’s Fun to Tease Girls!” (हो त ! केटी जिस्काउन मज्जा आउँछ). The note at the bottom of the article says that this was in response to the following article: केटी जिस्काउँदा मज्जा आउँछ हो ? (Is it fun to tease girls?) also published in the same paper .
Code for Nepal. #IWalkFreely online survey
Setopati (Oct. 24). #IWalkFreely.
Nepali Times (Dec. 2016). #IWalkFreely.
Articles/Op-eds etc. in Nepalese media about Nepalese girls and women not referenced in the blog post
Code for Nepal (Aug. 4). #IWalkFreely: Beginning to end street harassment in Nepal. Kavyaa Rizal, writing on August 4, describes two incidents she herself suffered from which led her and Code For Nepal to initiate the #IWalkFreely campaign.
Code for Nepal (Aug. 18). I Got the power #IWalkFreely. Stuti Sharma describes how it’s taken a long time for her to be strong and to fight back when victimised thus.
Kantipur (Dec. 2). डिप्लोमेसी vs ग्ल्यामर.
Nepali Times (June 2016). Nepal, cursed by sons-in-law? This is the English translation of the article ज्वाइँबाट अभिशप्त नेपाल written by Matrika Poudel, the communications advisor at the Ministry of Information and Communications.
And you got to read the following blog post by Jemima Sherpa.
— Dorje Gurung (@Dorje_sDooing) February 10, 2016
Additional Relevant References (added after the publication of the post):
E-samata (February, 2017). नेपाली मिडियामा लैङ्गिकहिंसा सम्बन्धी समाचार निकै कम छापिन्छन् (Low level of reportage of gender-based violence in Nepali Media). “नेपाली मिडियामा महिला हिंसाका समाचार सामग्रीहरू कति र कसरी प्रस्तुत गरिएका छन् भन्ने विषयमा अस्मिता प्रकाशनले हालै गरेको नेपाली मिडियामा लैङ्गिक हिंसासम्बन्धी समाचार सञ्चार अनुगमन प्रतिवेदनले नेपालका मिडियाले महिला हिंसाको प्रकाशन र प्रशारण सन्तोषजनक ढंगले नगरिरहेको पाएको छ ।” The article also reports on the data.
Kantipur (February, 2017). पैसा र पारपाचुके. See below for a tweet of mine containing a Facebook critique of the article.
— Dorje Gurung (@Dorje_sDooing) February 27, 2017
Kantipur Saptahik (August 2017). बियर पिउने युवतीका स्वभाव. The headline reads “Personality of a Beer-drinking Young Women.” And yes, it’s NOT a satire and so a very very embarrassing pretense for a serious article!