“I have gotten used to verbal and sexual harassment. How terrible of a sentence is that?! Nobody should ever, ever get ‘used’ to things like that.”
Nothing brings more clarity to the grim reality of the normalcy with which girls and women are harassed on the streets of Nepal than this excerpt from a participant story from Code for Nepal #IWalkFreely online survey. Code for Nepal is a non-profit that works to increase digital literacy and the use of open data in Nepal. Indeed, no one should be exposed to harassment to such a degree that they start getting used to it, but it’s hardly surprising that we are seeing this resigned acceptance of the misogynistic norm among our youth.
The #IWalkFreely survey amassed over 1000 responses and an overwhelming 92% of the participants reported they had been harassed on the streets in one form or another. More bleak still, 98% of all women participants stated they had been harassed making this an indisputably gender based issue.
Besides the streets, 71% of the participants also reported getting harassed in public transportations. 63% of the participants reported physical harassment of some form, 63% also reported being exposed to verbal harassment, and 20% reported sexual harassment.
One of the most insidious ways in which harassment thrives in our society is through the collective dismissal of its gravity. The problem is woven into the very fabric of our society, yet people are unwilling to acknowledge it. Instead, there is constant and casual deflection of the issue spurred by an internalized toxicity which has allowed this kind of heinous behavior to go unchecked for so long.
49% of the participants who said they had faced harassment were between 20 and 29 years old. Similarly, over 41% of the participants who answered in the affirmative when asked if they’d ever experienced harassment were between the ages of 13 and 19. This means a disturbing majority of the people who are harassed in our country are girls and young women.
Participant stories illustrated that victims were very often too embarrassed to talk about what had happened with their parents or authorities, fearful that the shame of the act would fall upon them, not the perpetrators. Boys will be boys. They won’t say anything if you cover up. Just pretend you didn’t hear them. They’ll stop if you don’t pay attention to them.
Being a young girl in Nepal, one is likely to hear this sort of dismissive rhetoric if she does try to talk about harassment with her mother or a female teacher. This is primarily why victims are more inclined to endure silently instead of trying to report the culprits. Girls are being conditioned to think their pain is not important, their bodies not their own to command but for boys and men to ogle and objectify.
In a society that has done the utmost to all but erase the female sexuality, adolescent girls are forced to deal with their changing physiques while simultaneously made to feel compelled to hide their development and growth, because being obvious might attract unwanted attention on the streets or their classroom or the micro bus. This poisonous socio-cultural trend will never change unless we, collectively as Nepali citizens, acknowledge that objectification of girls and women and the consequent harassment that they are subjected to is a national epidemic.
It’s easy to discern from the data that harassment is ubiquitous—one would have to stay home at all times, with their doors padlocked if they wish to dodge harassment in Nepal.
What we need to take away from these startling numbers is not the idea of urging our girls to become shut-ins, but the intent to spread awareness about this toxic epidemic and start conversations on all social and educational levels to teach our boys that girls are just as much human as they are, girls warrant just as much respect as boys do, girls deserve to walk freely on the streets without having to worry about being dehumanized through objectification.
(Gauchan is a writer with Code for Nepal)
Calling for a Public Debate on CSOs
The solution suggested by many, i.e. delegitimizing and killing off NGOs through regulatory mechanisms, harks back to the days of the Partyless Panchayat System, when the right to organize and associate freely was overridden by the state’s preoccupation with control, coordination, and uniformity.
Nepal facing disaster in the recovery from earthquakes
The disaster in earthquake recovery is as visible in the politics of power around the national disaster recovery institutions and aid-funded programs, as in local places where the earthquake victims continue to struggle for rebuilding houses and regain a normal life, for nearly two years now.
Dr Hemant R Ojha
Ideologies on T-shirts
In my opinion, Buddha was a great revolutionary, as was Einstein. Anything that challenges the present way of thinking about life is a revolution. In student politics, when it comes to revolution, the only blood I want to imagine being used is that flows into your brain and comes out energized with new ideas with every heartbeat.
Rules are made with keeping greater public safety in mind and mandatory helmet rule is an example. But it is equally true that majority of riders do not care to strap helmets as necessary.
Menstrual taboo outdated
I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.
Physicians are humans too!
To err is human. People make mistakes. Clinicians are no exception. But as soon as a patient or a person enters a doctor’s room, he or she forgets that the doctor too is a human being and expects too much from him or her.