Though the women in western countries have become aware of women’s rights and have moved a long way towards its enforcement, women in Nepal are still victims of gender-based violence. Mostly all the women in rural areas believe it to be their fate. Due to the awareness provided by various organizations, women in Surkhet have just begun to take courage to surface their problems.

They are very much aware of the patriarchal system which exploits women to the core but they are unwilling to change their traditional practices and to take risks. Through the years they have developed great confidence in Navjyoti Center to stand by them with their charism of risk-taking. This institution stands for peace and justice at any cost. Women lack economic security and they have no means to fight their cases. Men are heard to say to their wives “what can you women do, how can you fight against a male-dominated society?” But they are unaware of the present constitution which enables equal rights for men and women.

Navjyoti offers legal aid training in the villages through which many cases of gender-based violence have surfaced. At present Navjyoti offers financial support and legal support through a woman lawyer for any helpless women seeking justice. Within the last six months, Navjyoti has taken up about 50 cases. These cases are regarding domestic violence, divorce, right to property, financial support, polygamy, child marriage, and trafficking. Half of the cases are settled by mutual agreement and the rest are pending in the court and district police office.

Three case examples

Asha had been suffering from domestic violence at the hands of her husband for the past 20 years. He is a government employee who curtailed her movements and outside contacts. When she and her daughter were beaten up by him they escaped to Navjyoti Center and requested justice. Their case was registered in women’s cell of district police office by Navjyoti Center where the culprit was brought into the police from his village. After hearing the case from both parties certain terms and conditions were stipulated in the presence of Navjyoti personnel, local representatives and women police. The Next day Navjyoti organized a village level gathering where the ward chairperson presided along with elected local representatives. Decisions were made in agreement with the family members. At the end, all those who were at fault asked pardon in public and promised not to repeat such behavior. It was a warning to the whole village. In appreciation, the family served tea for all present.

Dilmaya had registered a case at the district court for domestic violence and lack of financial support. The case was settled through mutual agreement and paid compensation for the upbringing of their child. She was able to return to her home.

Gita was beaten up by her husband. After negotiations by Navjyoti and a lawyer to settle the matter locally, they realized that he had developed mental problems due to excessive alcoholism. He was taken to a psychiatrist and was put on medication. He has committed himself to stop alcohol and all forms of violence.

In this process of offering justice to women, Navjyoti has earned ill feeling due to some local leaders who want to perpetuate the patriarchal system. But Navjyoti has good coordination with the newly elected representatives, police officers, and government offices.

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