Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - As Asian nations welcomed the New Year with enthusiasm, figures about violence against women in both India and Nepal show a tragic picture. In December 2012, 47 serious cases of gender-based violence were reported to police in Nepal.
On an annual basis, government figures indicate that 64 per cent of Nepali women suffered domestic abuse last year, 16 per cent of social violence and 7 per cent, rape.
In case of sexual violence, in 59 per cent of cases the violence occurred within the women's immediate environment, 8 per cent involving incest. About 71 per cent of women aged 26 and 35 per cent is considered at risk.
Some cases are extreme. Sixteen-year-old Shiva Hasami, from Bardia district, was burnt alive on 12 December. Bindu Thakur, 18, from Bara, endured the same fate on the 26th. Mankala Badi, from Dailekh, was set on fire by her husband but survived with serious injuries.
However, it was another case that sent shockwaves across the country.
On her return home after two years working in Saudi Arabia, Sita Rai was abducted and raped by a police officer at Kathmandu Airport.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai expressed his government's "deep shame" for this act of violence and announced an in-depth investigation into the affair.
According to some sociologists, poverty is behind the rising wave of violence.
"Looking at the cases of deaths and burning alive, poverty is the cause," said Krishna Bhattachan. "In Terai, parents worry when a girl is born because they have to provide her with a large dowry. Those who cannot afford it choose violence and kill their own daughters."
"Gender-based violence is rising in Nepal and we do not feel safe," said Women's rights activist Renu Baj Bandhari. "Our protest will continue until those responsible of these acts are arrested and women's security ensured. This year, we shall not mark New Year's celebration. We shall weep for all those who have died from such acts of violence."