In the predominately Hindu culture of Nepal, patriarchal values permeate much of everyday life. A 2016 World Bank report spoke to South Asia having the highest rate of female to male mortality, child marriage, and intimate partner violence internationally. Interpersonal, ideological, sociocultural, and religious norms are the ultimate determinants of its pervasiveness and the key reason legislative interventions have had little impact.
Karma, the idea previous good or bad actions determine your lot in this existence, plays a vital role in the trauma inflicted upon girls and women. This mindset posits women having been less pious than men in previous lives, consequently rendering them deserving of the injustices and abuse inflicted upon them.
As women are regarded as subservient to men; this attitude translates to less access to education, citizenship, and civil rights. Sons are prized and mothers are praised for birthing them. Conversely, mothers birthing daughters are chastised; verbally and physically abused for the perceived drain on the community.
In 2011, the State of the World’s Children Report found that 23% of Nepali women between the ages of 15 and 49, considered their husband justified in hitting/beating them if they argued, burnt the dinner, or neglected the children. Many girls and women consequently remain in the sex trade to ‘pay back’ their ‘karmic debt’ and to provide financially for their family to offset their burden.
Sociocultural influences affect the interplay of religion, superstition, tradition, societal hierarchy, inconsistent legislative enforcement, and access (or lack thereof) to resources, services, support, and opportunities in the multifaceted matrix continuing to stigmatize, harm, and perpetuate those victimized.
In short; it is not a simple problem, and lacks a simple solution.
To demonstrate this, this is a story from an artwork which was created by one of our participants who was sold into sexual exploitation at a young age in the Art to Healing’s Women’s Transformational Program, which highlights this point: