Improving Nepal's response to gender-based violence

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A women speaking on her mobile phone facing away from the camera
The National Women Commission operates the 1145 support helpline which has experienced a surge in demand for GBV services during the pandemic. Photo Courtesy: LACC

In Nepal, COVID-19 has intensified the risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and girls.  Despite limited resources, Nepal's gender-based violence service providers have stepped up to ensure women and girls are safe and free of harm.  

One such provider, the National Women Commission (NWC), operates the 1145 support helpline and has experienced a surge in demand for GBV services during the pandemic. The NWC received funding through the World Bank's Integrated Platform for Gender-Based Violence Prevention and Response (IPGBVPR) project. 

Together with Legal Aid & Consultancy Center (LACC), Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Nepal, and SAATHI, NWC provides critical support to survivors of gender-based violence.

Providing remote psychosocial counseling

Data from the past three years show that 39% of all helpline calls at NWC originate from survivors of mental violence.  For these GBV survivors—many of whom are already under stress because of the pandemic—psychosocial counseling is an urgent need.  

Mounting requests for mental health support has made it urgent to operate 24-hour remote psychosocial counseling services.

However, mobility restrictions have impeded in-person counseling services , which support GBV survivors with psychiatric needs to manage their medicines or obtain funds for hospital admissions.

Mounting requests for mental health support has made it urgent to operate 24-hour remote psychosocial counseling services.  As of now, only TPO Nepal runs a day-time toll-free helpline to cater to the mental health needs of its callers in Nepal.  Further, The National Mental Health Policy 2017 still awaits implementation, causing delays in tackling mental health issues.

Access to justice for GBV survivors

Providing legal aid to GBV survivors should be one of the state's major priorities. We have seen some encouraging signs on this front. In a favorable verdict issued in August 2020, Nepal's Supreme Court mandated that helpline services for GBV survivors be available in all 753 local levels alongside online court hearings. 

Likewise, an amendment to the current legal policy is recommended to add integrated services whereby GBV survivors receive a socio-legal aid package besides a lawyer, including a psychosocial counselor and mediator.

Strong coordination among the federal, provincial, and local levels is critical to ensure that all GBV survivors, especially the ones from the most vulnerable communities, have access to legal services and justice. 

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A police officer counsels a woman and her child
Providing legal aid to the survivors of GBV should be one of the major state priorities. Photo Courtesy: NWC

Better shelters

Kapilvastu in Lumbini Province shows that the supportive and safe environment found in shelter homes can prompt more women to report GBV incidents. 

However, such shelters are too few across Nepal. Shelter staff is overworked and underpaid, and space limited . The pandemic has also laid bare the need for government-approved protocols to protect employees' and survivors' health and safety.  Encouragingly, under the IPGBVPR project, NWC has developed a new shelter protocol approved by the government.

Shelter homes are meant to offer temporary residence. But many women end up spending years in them as they can't find economic opportunities.  Skills development and employment opportunities of GBV survivors, therefore, need attention and investment.

A woman counsels another woman in an office setting
The pandemic has laid bare the need for government-approved protocols to protect employees' and survivors' health and safety. Photo Courtesy: TPO Nepal

Moving forward with a holistic action

Going forward, Nepal needs to build a reliable and holistic health, protection, and justice system to support GBV survivors. 

It is imperative to beef up the capacity of Nepal’s GBV Prevention Fund to handle crises such as COVID-19 . Established in 2008 by the Ministry of Women Children and Senior Citizen, the fund currently allocates a mere 6 million rupees or about $51,000 each year to GBV survivors, including for legal care, mental health services, skill development, or medical expenses.

Going forward, Nepal needs to build a reliable and holistic health, protection and justice system to support GBV survivors.

GBV service providers should also be encouraged to collaborate to ensure data consistency and improve budget estimates for costs and resources. The 1145 helpline, which has its own integrated Case Management System (CMS), could set an example for a future national GBV database system.

As Nepal charts its path to a resilient recovery, now is the opportune time to invest in the resilience of vulnerable GBV survivors regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity . This effort will require concerted action among the government, development partners, the private sector, and stakeholders to prevent and end all forms of GBV in Nepal.

The issues discussed in the blog were covered in the webinar series organized by IPGBVPR on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence with the participation of representatives from various ministries, civil society organizations, GBV activists, and advocates.

Authors

Jaya Sharma

Senior Social Development Specialist

Join the Conversation

Hart
December 14, 2020

Access to justice and better shelters and availability of shelters are so important. Thanks for sharing the Nepal experience.