Despite global progress towards gender equality in recent years, there are many countries still experiencing vast disparities between men and women, and many countries in which women are subjected to gender-based violence. Nepal is one of those countries.
And while some of the violence women and girls in Nepal are exposed to is common across a global context, some is rooted in the national context within the country, including and most predominantly, intimate partner violence.
In 2016, the Nepal Demographic Health Survey found that 22% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence at least once since the age of 15, and 26% of women who are or have been married have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their spouse. According to the Global Database on Violence Against Women, these rates are similar to those reported in India but lower than in nearby Bangladesh.
Research has uncovered several reasons for the persistence of gender-based violence in Nepal, including legal subordination, economic dependency, cultural obligation, and the social position of women, along with the social construction and reinforcement of male dominance and female subservience.
According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, though there has been progress over the last decades, the world is still not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 and doing so will require efforts and resources to reduce the violence against women and girls.
In a new study carried out by Palladium, the team sought to build on and deepen previous research on masculinity in Nepal. The recently published report with the study’s findings digs into the way masculinity and masculine norms impact violence against women and girls. “There is very little evidence available in Nepal that looks into masculinity and its relation to gender-based violence against women. This study aims to understand how masculine norms impact violence against women and help-seeking behaviours and how these norms can be influenced,” explains Karuna Onta, Social Development Advisor, FCDO, and co-author of the report.
Previous research has found that for many women, their decision on whether to report violence or seek justice is often influenced by the men in their lives. Nepalese women have generally looked to their husbands and male members of their families when making decisions about whether to break the silence about violence they have experienced. Men, in turn, have generally been influenced by other men.
“Several interventions in Nepal focussed on working with a vulnerable population of women and girls to address the social norms that are harmful but have limited engagement with men,” adds Onta. “This study allows us to expand our reach beyond the vulnerable group, particularly men and people who believe in masculinity as a trait in relation to gender-based violence against women and girls.”
Other studies in Nepal have also shown that men are a particularly influential reference group and their opinions shape norms around violence and gendered power dynamics. Although several interventions have sought to address social norms that are harmful to women, relatively few have done so with a specific focus on shifting masculinities, exploring the origins of harmful social norms, or working towards shifting power relations.
The study indicates that young boys who are exposed to violence in their families have a higher likelihood of following the same path, which means that breaking the intergenerational transfer of violence will help to create an equitable and safe environment.
Commitment and bold action are needed to truly accelerate progress towards gender equality, at both the global and national levels. The report and its findings show a way forward in Nepal for the initiatives and opportunities required to break the norms to increase safety, security, justice, and equity among women and girls.
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