Disclaimer: these are working notes taken during the field visit. They are provided here to give a sense of the conversation that took place in the field, and to put evidence in context. The notes have not been edited to be a final product. They might contain some inaccuracies and glitches. Information, findings will be further revised by checking reports, by crosschecking additional evidence and in additional exchanges with key evaluation stakeholders
We met with Sabin Pradhan, Nepal Police, Deputy Superintendent of Police
We asked him what the situation was after the earthquake in terms of Gender Based Violence (GBV). We learned about GBV when there are disasters or conflict; the group of people that suffer the most are women and children. The reality cannot be different. The number of cases and the risk on this population has increased. The police are not receiving the same number of reports in comparison to the same number of incidents. The people are very reluctant to speak to the police. The social structure is so complex that women cannot come freely to talk to the police. You really have to persuade them to talk. Only once they can speak freely, you learn about what is happening in villages and VDCs. When we go to the VDCs, the women come and discuss their problems that their needs to be addressed.
In the present context in Dhading, a lot of males are attracted to foreign employment. The youth have to find jobs outside of the district, either in Kathmandu or abroad. This leaves behind the women and children, they have to rely on the community structure for security, therefore they must live together with other families. When they live together in a larger family, the remaining males get the opportunity to harass them or speak to them openly when they are in isolation. That is a way of getting sexual benefits. The men who stay behind have more opportunity and the playground to find these women alone. These men are speaking to them and asking for sexual favours. They ask multiple times, the women may refuse the first or second time. If a woman consents to one sexual favour, these men can always intimidate them – they’ve done it once, why don’t they do it again. They explanation always is that these women performed sexual favours with consent. There may be consent in the first occasion but in several cases afterwards there may be no consent. There have been cases of rape registered in Dhading, they don’t understand the concept of rape; there must be consent every time people have sexual interactions.
Economic issues have occurred post-earthquake; people have not been involved in agriculture, or the lack of water sources has not been very good for agricultural output after the earthquake. Men are in search of labour, it’s pushing them to move away from their place of residence. One of the areas where they find employment is the highway. There are new factories being opened near the highway. These factories can trigger violence for people; exploitation, child labour. They have heard that there are more than 100 children working in brick factories that are being opened along the highway.
A lot of work post-earthquake has been done in Dhading that was beyond the capacity of the government, the space that has been filled by INGOs has been great. We haven’t been able to integrate and collaborate together to ensure that the works are taking place in an organized manner. We need to have a plan in place to fight GBV in an organized manner. When relief materials were flying into the country, nobody thought about the dignity kits. It took over a week for dignity kits to arrive, specifically targeted to specific groups; milk for children, dignity kits. We need to have a plan about what is needed in the first and second week, then the first month, what early relief times to be flown in within the first six months, and then we talk about the year.
Protection activities have been good. There weren’t protection activities during the search and rescue period; this needs to be done side by side. People still look at who is the main person in the house; when a woman is representing a family, the woman is not taken into consideration. Those gathering data are looking for the males to be the head of the household. The teams need to know that the head of the family can be male or female, they can equally represent the family. Even now women ask to be recorded as a different family because it is a female headed household. If the husband is living away from the village the data is not collected properly. There is still under representation of women in the family in terms of authority and opportunity. This is not only about land and house ownership, he is referring to a family, they don’t exist if the man isn’t present.
The issue of land ownership for single women who have not received the victim cards is an issue now but the new constitution guarantees that property ownership for all women regardless of their age. Moving forward there shouldn’t be any issues. INGOs role is to do awareness raising, sensitizing people about the issues.
When we talk about protection, he sees Nepal police as an important agency in Nepal because of its spread throughout the country. 2800 police units across the country, with 6% female police officers, most importantly about 20 years ago, Police established a special women service desk. This desk then transformed as a women cell and now it is a women service center and is used to promote police professionalism to those who are in contact with the law as a victim or a suspect. The women service center must look after them; they are trying to put as many female police office in these centers. They have 75 women and children service districts, in all the 14 zones, and all regional police offices, and 1 metro police office. The one at the capital is the women and children service directorate. Very soon the contractors will come to Dhading and will start building the women and children center with facility to help women to stay there for 22 days. In the district there isn’t a place where they can send women and children for safe keeping, even if we have facilities they don’t have the funds to take care of them if the need medical attention.
13 cases of rape have been registered in the last 7 months, many of them are underage, and a few of them are mentally unstable. They are in their homes. The police are trying to transfer a girl to Kathmandu, she cannot go to school because of the trauma, she wants a change of scenery.
NGOs have to institutionalize the support by actually speaking to people in the headquarters so they can issue the directives. At the district level they don’t have the authority to work together with NGOs, they have to ask permission. They need to have something concrete at the HQ level; this will make the difference to the people on the ground. We need to plan on how we are going to help one another.