Investing to prevent gender violence

In Nepal, 23 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 8 percent have faced sexual violence.


December 14, 2023

KATHMANDU – What truly is the worth of a life free of violence? How much do we care? Why do we need to invest and how? These are the questions we have pondered during the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence (GBV) campaign, which ends today on the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These questions, under this year’s theme of ‘investing in prevention’, show that ultimately, our level of investment is a question of prioritisation, a question of how much worth we place in eliminating GBV, and must guide our work moving forward. Let us make it clear that we make the safety, well-being and empowerment of women and girls in Nepal an undeniable priority of all.

In Nepal, 23 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 8 percent have faced sexual violence, as per Nepal Demographic and Health Survey 2022. Female victims often justify the horrendous violence inflicted upon them, shying away from reporting it and seeking services only when they need to attend to injuries. Only 28 percent of women who have ever experienced any type of physical or sexual violence have sought help to stop the violence. Moreover, 63.8 percent of survivors of sexual violence cases reported to the Nepal police are children, predominantly girls. Notably, most offenders are between the ages of 19 and 25, highlighting the imperative to direct attention and programmatic efforts specifically toward this age group.

Violent practices against women in the world of work are also common. The International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Experiences of violence and harassment at work: A global first survey, 2022 shows that globally, one in five persons in employment faces violence and harassment during their working life, and three out of five, mostly women, face it multiple times. Home and work are not safe places for many women, and neither is the internet. In recent times, online GBV has risen substantially. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a staggering 85 percent of women encounter or observe online violence.

The impact of GBV extends far beyond mere statistics, representing the untold stories of real individuals enduring profound pain and trauma, often silenced by societal norms or fear of consequences and retaliation. It is a silent pandemic, too often locked behind closed doors and deemed private or a shadow pandemic caused by myriad problems during humanitarian crisis.

For the past three decades, between November 25 and December 10, the world has marked 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, shining the light on this grave violation of human rights and collectively advocating for its elimination. It is a global call to action, highlighting the urgent need to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls across the globe because no country or community is safe. The very fact that we still mark this campaign three decades later calls to question how much we have truly cared.

This year, we draw our attention to the importance of investments. Investing in the prevention of GBV is not only an investment in the individual, the household and the community but also an investment in the future of Nepal and its sustainable development aspirations. GBV generates a multiplicity of costs whether in healthcare, education, or social protection and stands in the way of the economy achieving its full potential. Nepal and the world cannot wait any longer. The need is urgent for investment in addressing different dimensions of gender-based violence and sensitising girls and boys, women and men, families, businesses, and communities as part of holistic norm change to break the cycle of violence. This needs to be coupled with strengthening service provision and strategies to protect women and girls.

The solution lies in robust responses through a multi-sectoral and whole of society approach. Lessons can be drawn from the global EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, the most extensive targeted endeavour to eradicate violence against women and girls under the leadership of the UN. It serves as a compelling illustration that a substantial and all-encompassing investment in eradicating violence can yield transformative outcomes in the lives of women and girls. Notably, investments to combat violence against women have resulted in a twofold increase in the conviction rate for GBV across 12 countries, contributing as well to the fortification of 477 laws or policies designed to counter violence against women and girls. Building on these experiences, the Empowered Women, Prosperous Nepal Joint Programme (a partnership between the Government of Nepal), the EU Delegation and the UN aspire to take a comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach to addressing the informal and formal barriers standing in the way of the realisation of the rights of women and girls. Strategic initiatives, such as addressing economic challenges, supporting women’s rights organisations and reshaping social norms, hold significant promise in preventing and diminishing violence against women.

While Nepal has made strides in establishing legislative frameworks to counter discrimination and violence, effective implementation remains an urgent need. Women, particularly those from historically marginalised backgrounds such as Dalit women, women with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, and women from religious minorities, bear a disproportionate burden of violence, necessitating targeted measures.

This urgent call for action in Nepal demands immediate investment in prevention programmes, integrated services with improved GBV case management, justice promotion, and engaging men and boys to drive norm change. It starts with ensuring that families and communities value the girl child, treat girls with respect, provide them equal opportunities and ensure their well-being and development. It continues with targeted awareness campaigns and inclusive workplace policies that protect women workers and vulnerable groups from violence. The ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment, 2019 (No.190) grants everyone a right to a violence-free working environment, and we call for Nepal to ratify it. This will represent an irreversible step towards a world of work free from violence and harassment. We also call for an increase in budget for the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens and investments towards SDG5 across sectors.

In today’s federal context, intergovernmental collaboration among the three levels of government and horizontal collaboration is a must for effective implementation of policy, and this stands true for a multisectoral approach in GBV prevention.

Thus, we call on governments, civil society groups, women’s rights advocates, youth-led organisations, development partners, trade unions and employers’ organisations to collaboratively work towards tangible improvements for women and girls, and create a Nepal where every individual, regardless of gender or any intersectional identity, can thrive in safety and dignity.

We believe every individual’s voice counts in this battle against GBV. Let us stand united, raise awareness and advocate for a just and equitable world putting an end to violence and harassment everywhere—be it online or offline.

It’s time to invest in prevention—it’s time to safeguard the future of Nepal.

The Government of Nepal, the European Union, and the United Nations in Nepal have joined forces for “Empowered Women, Prosperous Nepal,” a programme implemented by ILO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women. This initiative aims to challenge harmful social norms, empower women and promote political participation.

Lorenzo is the EU Ambassador to Nepal, and Singer-Hamdy is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Nepal.

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