Violence against Girls in Educational Institutions (Completed 2008)

This report summarizes the findings from a survey carried out by Yagya B. Karki as the Team Leader, PHD Group and Saloni Singh of DIDIBAHINI on behalf of ACTIONAID/Nepal. A total of 300 school girls from lower secondary and secondary schools of Siraha, Parsa, Lalitpur, Bardiya and Rasuwa were interviewed and their answers analyzed. In addition, qualitative study was conducted using three types of qualitative techniques, viz., in-depth interview, FGD and key informant interview. In-depth interviews of 20 girl students from Siraha, Lalitpur and Bardiya; two FGDs each from Parsa, Lalitpur, Bardiya and Rasuwa with girl students and 24 key informants from five districts were interviewed and responses analyzed. Attempts were made to have representation of most caste/ethnic groups.

For quantitative survey a questionnaire was developed and for qualitative studies in-depth interview, FGD and key informant guidelines were developed, pre-tested and finalized. The partner NGOs of ACTIONAID/Nepal in respective districts were trained to collect quantitative and qualitative data.

Main Findings

Most school girls said that they are discriminated at home, in the community, on the way to school, at market places, at religious functions and in school. About one in three girls say that they are not allowed to go out of the home. Nearly one in five girls said that they have to work hard at home; in rural areas they herd cattle, cut grass for cattle, etc. Compared to boys girls are treated more like housemaids. Girls are also prevented from voicing their concerns. About one in eight girls mentioned being discriminated against food and clothing. One in ten girls reported that they are not given opportunities in various programmes of the community. Girls are given less and inferior education and a few opportunities to develop their inborn capacities.Many girls said that they are not loved as much as boys; girls are hated. When girls come home late from school, they are shouted at and badly rebuked. They said that girls are not given education as much as boys; many girls in villages are not sent to school at all. Only boys are given private tuition; not girls. Big celebration welcomes the birth of a boy while when a girl is born nothing is done. Family does not allow girls to wear newly designed clothes. One in 25 girls said that on the way to school or while coming back from school and also in the school, they are pushed by boys or boys use bad words against them.

Dalit girls said that they are not allowed to enter temples. They are not allowed to come close to water container; let alone touching it.

Girls said that teachers discriminate between boys and girls in school. Teachers ignore girls while teaching; they ask girls to clean the classroom not the boys. If girls are late to school teachers keep them outside the class. Girls are not given equal opportunities in sports with boys in school. When girls go to class wearing fashionable clothes teachers throw them out of class. Girls are not encouraged to participate in quiz contest; teachers encourage only boys.

Despite being discriminated everywhere, the girls still felt happy as a girl. Girls also reported that they were forced to do things that they did not like.

In this study, the life time prevalence of violence was estimated at 91 percent. The mean age at which they experienced violence was 12.4 years. Most common form of violence was emotional (47 percent), followed by physical (45 percent) and sexual (8 percent).

Most common forms of emotional violence were “yelling at” “insulting”, humiliation and irritation, in that order. About half of all girls experienced emotional violence at home. About one in three girls experienced emotional violence in school. Going to school and coming back from there is also risky.

About a quarter school girls participating in the study reported home being the place of physical violence. Some girls were physically abused on the way to school or coming back from school. Other places of physical violence were market and friend’s places.

Nine different types of physical violence were experienced by girls in school; they included beating, pushing, slapping on the face, grabbing, throwing something at, hitting with fist, arm twisting, slamming against a wall and use or threatening with Khukuri or knife or gun. The corporal punishment or beating by teachers formed the most serious form of violence in school.

Although sexual mores are high in Nepal, young school girls are sexually assaulted. The sexually assaulted school girls were, one average, 11.9 years and some of them were as young as 6 years. Most such girls did not report the incidents to others because of embarrassment.

The perpetrators of emotional violence were relatives, unknown persons, friends, teachers, and boyfriends while the perpetrators of physical violence were school teachers, relatives including parents, unknown persons, boyfriends and friends. Boyfriends were reported as the main perpetrators of sexual abuse.

Over half of the girls participating in the study said that they were affected by the violence in different ways. One in four girls mentioned that it was difficult for them to concentrate in the class because the perpetrators were their classmates.

Despite being victims of violence of different types many girls were found hiding their problems. Not even half of all physically abused girls reported about the incidents to others for punishment. Despite experiencing physical violence about one third girls were not affected by those incidents in anyway. Slightly over one in four girls felt bored in life after physical violence. Nearly one in five felt like dropping out of school.

The prevalence of current violence (violence that took place in the 12 months preceding the survey) among girls in school was estimated at 24 percent. The forms of violence included irritation, swearing, insults, humiliations and threatening. Emotional violence takes place at home; in school and on the way to or form school.

The girls experiencing emotional violence felt bored in school, felt like stopping going to school and some were psychologically affected. The current physical violence experienced were beating, slapping on the cheeks, grabbing and pushing. School appears to be the main place where physical violence takes place. School teachers beat girl students a lot. The other place of physical violence is girls’ own home.

The physically abused girls felt like stopping going to school, found it difficult to concentrate in class and some were physiologically affected.

The perpetrators of current sexual violence were boyfriends, unknown persons and fellow students. Sexual violence took place at the surroundings of religious ceremonies, at school premises and on the way to or on the way back from school. Most girls did not report the incidents because of embarrassment. Only one in five such girls said that her education was affected.

This research has re-established a pattern in which school girls are apparently overburdened by household chores and have limited time to spare for reading and writing and to play and be entertained. Every school girl has, on average, three close friends. School girls do reading/writing, home work, help parents/cut grass/cook. Only a few manage to play games such as basketball. Only a few girls listen to music, watch TV/watch film/listen to radio, go out/talk with friends. In all 10 activities are performed by girls attending school. They include reading, writing, doing school home work and helping parents. Most work in household chores.

Physical violence against girls is very high. Nearly every girl and key informant interviewed said that they are beaten and scolded at home.

Some key informants hold the view that sexual exploitation of girls is quite common. A few key informants said that in big families, the family members are reported to be raping girls.

The school environment is worse. Corporal punishment i.e. beating girls is reported to be rampant; if girls are late to school teachers beat them, scold them, and hit them with stick. In addition, some girls participating in the survey said that male peers, i.e. boys too hit girls with stones.

Qualitative data reveal that school girls are badly sexually exploited by both teachers and male classmates. Teachers compel girls to have sex and consequently girls drop out of school.

The Nepalese traditional patriarchal outlook contributes to violence against girls. The key informants say that because of such an outlook increasing numbers of girls become victims of violence. The persistence of early marriage also contributes to violence which is related to the dowry system.

Parents/guardians see no value in educating girls and therefore they are asked to do more household work than school studies. There is a belief that son is needed to go to heaven after death which undermines the values of girls. Among the reasons for girls dropping out of school, major ones include heavy workload at home, leading to lack of concentration and physical punishment by school teachers, creating humiliation and eventual detachment from studies.

Most girl interviewees feel that there should be awareness programme to reduce discrimination between boys and girls at home and in school. They suggest positive measures for girls such as free education and free supply of books and stationery.

This study being basically an exploratory one, the perceptions and experiences shared by respondents in the study can be used as the bench mark information to design a bigger and nationally representative large study in the future. The findings of the study should be interpreted and used with caution.