Rabilal Acharja from Chuzagang, Gelephu is the go-to guy to help out in these affairs

Gelephu: It was almost midnight when Rabilal Acharja received a phone call from his friend, last week.

Soon after the phone call, he was at the neighbour’s house to settle a fight between his friend’s daughter and her husband.  He brought the wife to his home to prevent the husband from hitting her.

In the morning, the wife blamed him for interfering in her family matter and returned home.

Rabilal, 54, is from Chuzagang in Gelephu.  He is a farmer and known in the village for providing shelter to domestic violence victims, and settling quarrels among couples.

He frequently gets calls from villagers, seeking his help to file a case with the gup or the court.

About two months ago, his 40-year old niece came to him, with her four children, looking for a place to live.  Although she was married for 22 years, her husband battered her everyday.

Rabilal got two of her children admitted in a nearby school. “Her husband is a drunkard and she has nowhere to go,” he said.

He added that the case was reported to the gup and tshogpa but he was asked to file a court case.  After they failed to bring the husband to the gewog office in the past, the gup had asked him to report to court directly, Rabilal said.

“I don’t think it would be any better wasting time and money visiting the court,” he said. “The husband isn’t going to change.”

For over six years, Rabilal and his wife have also been hosting his 65-year old elder sister, a widow.  Although she is not a victim of domestic violence, she had to come and live with her brother after her son ill-treated her.

“I hear about domestic violence every now and then, in the neighbourhood, villages and other gewogs,” he said. “It’s a disease, which no medicine can cure.”

According to records with Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW), Sarpang reported 22 cases of domestic violence last year.

RENEW records also show that violence against women is more prevalent among women aged between 19 to 26 years followed by 26 to 30 years.  Between 2009 to 2014, the organisation registered 2,020 cases.

The 2012 health survey also stated that about 74 percent women accepted domestic violence as justified.

RENEW’s director for community outreach, (Dr) Meenakshi Rai, said, in the past, domestic violence cases were assaults and battery, but in the last two years, wilful negligence, where husbands leave their wives in villages, has topped the list, followed by extra marital affairs.

She said the number of domestic violence cases have increased over the years.

“Just last week, RENEW saw 19 cases,” she said. “More people are reporting domestic violence because of awareness.”

In 2011, RENEW recorded 318 cases, which increased to 374 in 2012.  The number went up by one case in 2013, but jumped to 382 cases of domestic violence last year.

By Nirmala Pokhrel