My last blog talks a little about the domestic violence law that recently passed in Nepal. Since writing that post, I have obtained a copy of the law in English. Here are the main points:
- – The term domestic violence encompasses more than physical abuse. The law defines it as physical, mental, sexual, emotional, and economic abuse in any familial relationship.
- – The law does not only apply to violence against women. Abusive acts directed towards any person who does, or at some point has, lived under the same roof as the perpetrator and is related in some way can be punished under the law. In my last post, I mentioned that a woman must prove her marriage in order to file a claim. I will look further into whether this was prior to the new law or if this is a loophole that still exists.
- – The court has the power to offer protection, if needed, to a victim during the investigation of a complaint. It can also mandate that compensation is provided, or basic needs are met, during the trial.
- – Attempting to commit an act of domestic violence or inciting someone else to commit one can also be punished under the law.
- – Repeat offenders are subject to double the punishment the second time they commit an offense.
- – Public officials are subject to ten percent longer punishments.
- – The statute of limitation is 90 days after the crime.
On one hand, I find the law to be very strict and for good reason. A 2008 study by Saathi found that 93 percent of women in Nepal are exposed to mental and emotional torture, 82 percent are beaten, 30 percent are raped, and 28 percent are forced into prostitution**. These numbers clearly show a strong domestic violence law-one that takes into account more than just physical abuse-is needed.
Domestic abuse takes many forms. Depriving a woman of economic opportunities, for example, can lead to situations that foster domestic violence. Countless women in Nepal were displaced during the conflict; many of them, lacking sufficient job skills, have turned to sex work. It is important that the law takes into consideration contributing factors.
On the other hand, I find the law too wide-ranging to be effective. Any family relationship and almost any form of mistreatment can be prosecuted. Just attempting to commit an act defined as domestic violence or provoking someone else to do so is punishable. The law also does not reference specific types of physical violence or establish appropriate penalties. For example, there is no mention of weapons. Theoretically, a perpetrator could receive the same sentence for verbally abusing his wife as he could for shooting her.
I am curious to see how claims filed under this law will play out in court.
What are your thoughts on the first domestic violence law in Nepal? How do you feel about some of the more interesting provisions, such as mandating a ten percent longer punishment for public servants? Please share your comments below.
**Gender Action for Peace and Security (2009). Global monitoring checklist of women, peace, and security. Available at http://www.peacewomen.org/resources/1325/GAPS_MonitoringChecklist.pdf
Posted By Isha Mehmood
Posted Jul 22nd, 2009