Public Hearing on "Dowry and Violence against Women"

altBirgunj, 4 April 2014 - Sancharika Samuha (SAS) Nepal organized a public Hearing on Dowry and Violence against Women here today.  The main objective of the program was to call for ending the dowry system and reducing the violence against women associated with it.

The program also aimed at drawing the attention of the government agencies, journalists and stakeholders to reduce violence against women associated with dowry and providing legal remedy and social justice to the survivors of such violence. 

Similarly, seeking public commitment from political and civil society leaders, women's rights activists, academicians, lawyers, teachers, students, parents and eligible bachelors to end dowry system, making people aware of the traditional practices harmful to women in particular and the entire society in general were other objectives of the event.

Dowry has evolved into a social ill and has been one of the root causes of violence against women particularly in the Tarai and across the country at large. Although cases of violence emanated from dowry are not filed at the concerned government agencies, a large number of women have been subjected to domestic violence, torture, polygamy and even murder.

The situation continues unabated mostly in the Tarai districts irrespective of social status of the people involved. In keeping with the growing tendency of providing and seeking dowry during and after wedding in the Tarai, SAS chose to create public awareness to end the system and reduce violence associated with it and organized the Public Hearing in Birgunj, the district headquarters of Parsa which is one of the dowry-affected districts.alt

Participants included the Assistant Chief District Officer, District Attorney, Chair of District Bar Association, District Police Chief, Representative from the District Development Committee, senior journalists, women's rights activists, leaders of more than 10 major political parties, women from Marwari community, university teachers, students, social workers and survivors of violence related with dowry among others.

Presenting a paper on Dowry and Violence against Women, Mr Chandra Kishore Jha, a senior journalist from the Tarai, said that the more educated the family, the higher the prevalence of dowry and about 80 women suffer from dowry-related violence. Participants mostly women said that due to familial, social and political pressure, the police do not take strong action against the perpetrators of dowry-related violence against women. They said that dowry has gripped the entire community, resulting in rising number of dowry-related violence.

Mr Tek Bahadur KC, Assistant Chief District Officer, said that concerted efforts were necessary to end violence against women while Mr Basu Dev Khatiwada, Deputy Superintendent of Police, said that the District Police Office has established a women's Cell in order to help survivors of violence and to combat violence against women. 

One of the survivors of dowry-related violence from the Tarai community cried while sharing her pain inflicted by dowry-related violence while others demanded strong implementation of Social Behaviour Reform Act and urged the concerned government authorities to play an effective role in containing dowry and violence associated with it.

Speakers also made commitment not to give and receive dowry and one youth declared that he would marry sans dowry.  For the first time in Birgunj, a group of women from the Marwadi, the business class, community altparticipated in such an event and spoke publicly against the culture of dowry.

Most of the participants who spoke on the occasion appreciated SAS for organizing the Public Hearing on such a pertinent issues especially in the context of rising violence against women because of dowry and suggested to hold similar programs in the days to come.

More than 210 people from Parsa and Bara districts representing different sectors participated in the program anchored by Ms Nirmala Sharma, President of SAS, which was covered by more than 12 local dailies, radio and TV stations and national dailies, online news agencies, radio and TV channels. 

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In order to complement its initiatives to mainstream women's issues in the media and to initiate fresh discourse on the contemporary issues affecting the lives of women in general and women journalists in particular, SAS organizes interactions frequently. Over the years, SAS has earned a reputation of raising the economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights violation issues and holding interactions among journalists, women's rights activists, government officials, civil society leaders, opinion formers and other stakeholders. It has been interacting with the wider stakeholders on issues like women's representation in the Constituent Assembly (CA), political participation in all spheres of social life and their faire representation in all levels of political parties and on issues like domestic violence, witch accusation, dowry-related violence and other violence against women. During the run-up to elections to the CA, SAS organized many interactions among the stakeholders on its own and in partnership with other like-minded organizations, for instance.

With an objective of informing, educating, and calling for an action on issues of press freedom, women's equal participation in state affairs, to end violence against women, to sensitize the general public on respecting the rights of people, to create public awareness gender equality and on other contemporary issues, SAS produces and broadcasts various jingles and public service announcements (PSAs) on different radio and television stations. While producing such jingles and PSAs, SAS pays attention to the target audience and broadcasts them in major languages of Nepal including Nepali. SAS often produces and broadcasts such informative audio-visuals in collaboration with other like-minded organizations, coalitions and social movements.

Training & Workshop
SAS has been carrying out various programs with an overarching goal of mainstreaming women's issues in the media and supportive activities with an objective of enhancing the capacity of women journalists in order to increase their participation in journalism and retain them in the profession. Right from its inception in 1996, SAS has been organizing various capacity-building programs for women journalists. Among them, Basic Journalism, Feature Writing and Investigative Reporting training and workshops are the major and regular activities of the organization. The journalists thus trained are given opportunity to contribute articles to its Feature Service in Nepali and English, SAS Radio and TV programs and to Sancharika Online.
The journalists trained by SAS have been producing feature stories, investigative reportage and other hard news and contributing to SAS-run media apart from other mainstream media both electronic and print they are affiliated with.

Press Release
Sancharika Samuha, being a pioneer forum of women journalists and communicators, works to safeguard the rights of female journalists, journalists in particular and women in general. In order to ward off possible violation of rights and to draw the attention of the state to provide justice to victims in the aftermath of rights violation plus to call for an action regarding inclusion, equality and meaningful participation of women in different fields of social life, SAS issues press releases.
It also issues press releases to condemn attack on press freedom and safety of journalists besides informing concerned state and non-state actors on its activities targeted to the betterment of the promotion and protection of the rights of women journalists in particular and media people in general. The organization also issues press release on issues of national importance and women's equal participation in decision-making bodies of the state.

SAS produces documentaries to capture the reality of the lives of people mostly women whose basic rights are violated. It focuses on denial of the rights of women to acquire citizenship through matriarchy, domestic violence, gender-based violence, violence caused by harmful traditional practices such as dowry, deprivation of girl children from basic education, discrimination against girls and women in different fields of their social life. The organization produces and airs such documentaries with an objective of informing the general public on certain issues of rights violation and drawing the attention of the state to protect and promote their rights, thereby supporting to establish a gender-equal society. SAS has produced many documentaries on violence against women and has aired them through different television channels of Nepal.

SAS carries out studies on different issues mainly focusing on women journalists, press freedom, media monitoring, status of women journalists, violence against women, domestic violence, structural violence and gender discrimination. Traditional and cultural practices harmful to women are also another area of its advocacy. SAS advocates with and through the media primarily on the basis of the findings of the reports in order to change state policies and programs in favour of women.
The organization also prepares reports of collective campaigns carried out in different times depending on the urgency of issues and events. Likewise, SAS also prepares reports on media monitoring and documents and shares the findings of such studies. Reports prepared and shared by SAS have become very useful for policy-makers, implementers, students and scholars besides women's rights activists and apologists.

Television Programme
Since 4 November 2013, SAS has been producing television programme titled "Samakon" on Kantipur Television. The objective of the programme is to dig out the issues of gender-based violence, bring them to the notice of duty bearers, support survivors of such violence by providing them an opportunity to share the injustice, and create awareness among people in order to create a gender-friendly society.