Since 1991, every year from November 25 to December 10, UN Women has been running 16 days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign. While in 2016, I contributed to the campaign for the first time on social media, this year, I have decided to blog instead. This is the second blog. (Click here for the first one.)
Gender-based violence whether in the privacy of homes or offices, or in public space (like in public transportation or during festivals such as Holi) is a major issue in Nepal. After all, our society is a highly patriarchal one. And very conveniently, stigma is associated with being a victim of violence — whether gender-based violence or age-based violence.
We have normalized violence in our society. To reiterate an argument I have made in the past, when adults model violent behaviors, of course, children copy. When children see violence being committed by adults on children and others, violence is what many learn to commit against their own peers and others — especially by boys — as children and later as adults.
I grew up in Nepal with violence both at home and school. A classmate, a middle-aged man, just a couple of years ago tried to convince me how it was “right” to “settle” disputes involving violence with violence at a later time. On the Societal Violence Scale, when it comes to violence against children, Nepal, in 2014, scored a 4 out of 5. (The higher the score, the more violent a society.) Here’s the descriptor for level 4:
Reports of violence against the group are pervasive in scope as well as severe in nature and may assume a variety of forms. It affects a significant proportion of the group. [Emphases mine.]
Violence in school and at home against children, of course, contributes, sustains, and is one of the main reasons behind the tendencies of Nepali boys and men to be violent. Not having been taught non-destructive alternatives, they resort to violent means to resolve issues or to express their emotions and/or frustrations etc. Often, females are at the receiving end.
With violence being normalized so; with casual sexism not even registering in the radar of most Nepalis as wrong; with women being thought of and treated as being inferior and second class citizens — is it any wonder that girls in our society grow up to be adults with very laxed attitude towards domestic violence?! Is it any wonder that when it comes to violence against women, we couldn’t be worse?! We scored a 5 out of 5 in the Societal Violence Scale. Here’s the descriptor for level 5:
Violence against members of the group is ubiquitous in scope and egregious in nature. It affects a large proportion of the population of the group and assumes a variety of forms. [Emphases mine.]
Not surprisingly, it’s rare for Nepali friends, especially males, to engage with me on the issue of gender-based violence (as well as other taboo subjects) even as middle-aged men! I have had such conversations with some female friends though (just as I have had conversations with them about violence in school). And, again not surprisingly, they have shared stories of domestic abuse their female friends have suffered from. I have also met women who shared their own stories of abuse. Those stories were always harrowing.
I also heard one such story at the Nov. 21 Story Yeller sessions.
One of The Story Yellers at last evening’s session was a very very courageous young woman Trisha Regmi. She shared her story of suffering from domestic violence from when she got married at…seventeen to a man her family had chosen who, she said, she had also fallen in love with! His violent actions led her to losing the child she was carrying! While pregnant, apart from physically assaulting her as he had done regularly, her husband also raped her!
Other Nepali women have shared with me in private horrible HORRIBLE stories of violence they suffered in the hands of their husband and/or boyfriend!
(If you are interested in learning more about the issue, follow this link: https://www.dorjegurung.com/…/nepal-patriarchy-shaped-laxed…/.)
And the crazy thing about this is that stigma is associated with being a victim of domestic violence and therefore conversations about it is taboo in Nepali society! One of the many ways patriarchy has been set up to serve it itself.
If we are to change this, one of the things we have to do is to remove the stigma associated with being a victim of domestic or gender-based violence. To do that, we must work towards creating — through education — social and cultural environments where victims feel safe and even empowered to come forward and speak about the atrocities they face.
Another thing we have to do is sensitize the authorities, especially the police, to the issue of gender-based violence. They need to be trained to take the issue seriously when women come forward and respond appropriately, namely by focusing on the victim, for example. I understand that often the police take the perpetrator’s side and push for the parties to reconcile.
Yet another thing we must do is to eliminate the culture of using violence when raising and educating children. The country passed a law in 2005 criminalizing violence against children in schools. And yet, more than a third of those interviewed for “Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014” still believe physical punishment is necessary in educating and raising children. Clearly, as with most other socially progressive laws in the country (such as that criminalizing caste-based discrimination or Chhaupadi), many still are unaware of the law. It is not enforced adequately either. Awareness needs to be raised about the law both in schools and homes, and push for the law to be strictly enforced.
Lastly, we can and must, instead, raise children with compassion, with respect, by engaging with them in a healthy and developmentally appropriate manner, by catering to their emotional needs, and by modeling non-violent behaviors.
In my previous incarnation as a teacher, for almost twenty-years, I taught my students without the use or the threat of violence. In the seven years my little nephew has been around, I have raised him by respecting him and also without the use or threat of any violence at all. If I can do it, I don’t see why others can’t.
What do you think?
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Not referenced in the blog post but added after the publication of the blog because of relevance.
- The Record (Oct. 11, 2018). Bunu Dhungana is fed up with patriarchal culture. “Her photographs confront the culture of silence that surrounds women[.]” [Added on Dec. 6, 2018.]