Context: Nepal a country emerging from armed conflict and with a strong base of patriarchy and feudalism at its roots, has institutionalized the norm of violence as portrayed in social values, political criminalization and impunity. The practice of routinely subjecting women to various forms of violence from womb to grave is pervasive. Lately the practice of alleging women as witches and brutalizing them mutilating them and even murdering them is in increase. Political elite of the country is busy negotiating for peace which for women is a very narrow concept. For political parties at present peace means reintegration of Maoist combatant into Nepal army. For and against group is fighting to make themselves heard and their agenda addressed. This situation has created the environment where marginalized community in general and women in particular are being victimized due to absence of security, rule of law, criminalization of politics and culture of impunity.
Long standing taboos and discriminatory traditional practices are being used in different areas to exercise power. Violence against women alleging them as witch can be taken as one among them. Struggle of women's group for women's right, facilitation to empowerment process of women by different development partners and 12 yrs long political conflict in country has impacted on women's empowerment. Now women are demanding their rights, became stronger than they used to be and silence which was within them on VAW started to get broken. But the system to address this is quite weak. In stead lack of rule of law, focus to ensure socio-economic rights of people and effort to address the discriminatory traditional harmful practices has created an environment for those who were in power in the past and feeling challenged by women at this moment to use this tool to silence them. This has been an issue raised by activist in the country and even CEDAW committee has recommended Government to address this by doing the followings"
The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Put in place without delay a comprehensive strategy, with concrete goals and
timetables, to eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes that discriminate against
women, in conformity with articles 2 (f) and 5 (a) of the Convention;
(b) Strengthen its awareness-raising and educational efforts, targeted at both women and men, with the involvement of civil society, as well as community and religious leaders, to eliminate harmful traditional practices, and collaborate with the media to enhance a positive, non-stereotypical and non-discriminatory portrayal of women; and
(c) Promptly enact the draft law on social harmful practices, ensure that it covers all forms of harmful practices and ensure full implementation of this law without delay as well as monitoring of its effective implementation.
Violence against women alleging them as witches has been increased in country. In last 6 months more than 95 women (WOREC –report) have been abused in different districts due to this. Various means and approaches have been taken by the community to punish women alleging them as witches. Degrading and inhuman practices such as forcing women to take human excreta, mutilating their body parts, blinding them, burning them alive are some of the examples. This is becoming a practice in country to silence women. This situation has been compounded with the abuse and isolation of women Human Right Defenders, who are the support mechanism for women in community, by the perpetrators of such inhuman behavior and abuse. This situation demands attention from all sectors and intervention to raise the issue, to address the need of survivors, educate the community and to create pressure on Government to develop effective action plan and implementation mechanism to address this. This is also in line with the recommendation given by the CEDAW committee in 49th session.
National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders (National Network working for the rights of women Defenders is in all 75 districts in the country) has recently concluded 100 days campaign against VAW. The Experience of NAWHRD shows that the activities focused during campaign enables to make the issue visible, to disseminate the information about the support mechanism to the survivors and to create pressure on Government.
Need of the campaign focusing on violence against women alleging them witches has been felt by all Women. This is necessary to support women to resist the abuses and demand to address the need of survivor and for effective plan of action and implementation mechanism against this heinous crime by the Government.
The objective of this campaign is as follow:
To bring all stake holders together by educating, informing, sensitizing from grassroots to national level( and even international) to act against this heinous crime against humanity, particularly against women and to ensure rights of the survivors to get justice and reparation.
This National campaign will be launched for 60 days starting from April eleventh. This campaign will be launched primarily nationally however for this phase this will be focused IN FOLLOWING DISTRICTS:
Sirha, Saptari, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat,Sindhuli chitwan( Madi), Makwanpur, Lalitpur and Kathmandu, The activities in Kathmandu will be of a National in NATURE.
Following activities will be part of this campaign:
- Launch of the campaign by WHRDs of above mentioned districts along with National alliance of WHRDs and other alliances in Kathmandu at Basantpur on 11th of April Launch of the campaign in above mentioned districts on 13th Siraha Saptari 14th, Chitwan 15th, Sarlahi and Mahottari on 16th, Rautahat17th, Makwanpur 18th.
- National hearing of survivors with all policy makers May 2nd
- Interaction with Journalists specially from the districts where the program will be launched and in Kathmandu to prepare radio program, journalists will be encouraged to host radio program regularly.
- Preparation of attention letter to PM and government authorities and handing over to them by WHRDs from the districts.
- Communication with Special Rapporteur on VAW will be maintained and request to invite her to examine the cases will be put forward.
- Cases of women alleged as witches and abused in these districts and others will be documented
This will be a joint campaign of National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders, NFORCE, Mahila Adhikar Manch,WOREC-Nepal, Care Nepal, Actionaid International Nepal and other organization interested to work together in this issue. The secretariat will be at NAWHRD secretariat, program will be implementation in leadership of NAWHRD secretariat in collaboration with other stakeholders mentioned above.
The practice of violence against women alleging them as witches is a result of women's status given in society, discriminating women by policy makers , existence and practice of harmful traditional practices so it is very difficult to get tangible outcome with this short term campaign oriented activities. However due to sensitive atmosphere and realization of multiple actors including the policy makers that this crime needs to be stopped and addressed following outcomes are envisaged by this campaign:
- Communities will be sensitized on women's right and be sensitive
- There will be commitment by Top Brass of the country to prepare action Plan and implementation mechanism to address the crime.
- Compliance to the recommendation of the CEDAW committee will be increased.
- Law to address the crime will be adopted.
- Women survivors will get justice and couple of them will take the lead as change agents to address the crime( principle of self representation and practice of from victim hood to change agents will be practiced)
- Journalists will be sensitized and the issue will become more visible which in turn will enable women to break the silence and report incase they need.
- There will documented cases
- Communication with Special Rapporteur will be increased and there will be communication by UNSRVAW with Government in her report.
- The visibility of the issue will be increased and their will be a sensitive environment in the country to look at the issue and change harmful social and cultural practices.
- Large women network will start working together which will strengthen women's movement in Nepal.