Inspector Ghimire admits that the Nepal Police “has always been linked with power and authority” and that “the institution [has] suffered severe hostility and trust-deficit from the public”. However, with support from the DFID-funded SAFE Justice project, they have set out to change this, using the key tool of the Community Score Card (CSC) process both as “a tool of self-reflection” but also, as Inspector Ghimire says, as “an effective and evidence-based approach to garner feedback from the communities about the services provided by the Nepal Police”.
Using “interface dialogues”
A key phase of the CSC process is ‘interface dialogues’, where the police and community members – comprising diverse groups such as women’s, men’s, youth and adolescent groups, influential stakeholders, and judicial committee members – hold discussions on the way forward, and together develop action plans to strengthen services provided by the police, especially to poor and marginalised people and communities. Inspector Ghimire says:
“One of the changes that I have witnessed in the course of participating in the CSC process is the uncensored conversations during the interface dialogues. The interface dialogues provide an enabling environment for the community, as well as the service providers, to come together to assess the reviews and scores generated from multiple layers of scoring, and discuss pertinent issues which hamper service delivery.”
Raising awareness among police officers
Inspector Ghimire believes that the CSC process not only serves as a tool for improving services, but also helps to ‘sensitise’ police officers about critical issues in society. Inspector Ghimire says:
“From the very beginning, women have lived under patriarchal dominance, where their rights are often discarded and ignored. Violence against women is a common phenomenon in society, and we are committed to address this issue. However, during the interface dialogues, women and girls pointed out several drawbacks in the services that we were providing. This served as an eye-opener for us.”
The interface dialogues, and the evidence gathered from the focus group discussion with the women and girls group, highlighted that the lacklustre approach of the police towards violence survivors; forced mediation and gender insensitive behaviour; and the absence of women police constables, all contributed to women and girls’ reluctance to report cases of gender-based violence to the police.
Proactive changes in policing
Inspector Ghimire says: “We took the comments and reflections seriously and made changes in the way we functioned.” Patrolling in communities was increased, and community awareness engagement activities were strengthened. Police officers participated in community dialogues and awareness-raising campaigns on gender-based violence (GBV) and used dramas and lectures to educate the community about the procedure for reporting GBV cases to the police. New Information, Education, and Communications (IEC) materials on police services, including contact details, were designed and disseminated. Inspector Ghimire adds:
“We also retained a woman police constable to provide counselling to GBV survivors and provided orientation on gender-sensitive behaviour to police officers to safeguard the rights and confidentiality of GBV survivors.”
Increased reporting of GBV
These changes have made an immediate impact, with the number of GBV cases being reported and recorded showing a significant increase since the implementation of the CSC process. Inspector Ghimire says:
“Self-reflection is important to refine our services, and it has also supported in humanising our approach. The next step would be to internalise and assimilate the CSC process in our monitoring system, and upscale the approach at the local and national level.”
He also points out that the CSC scoring, and review process suggests a considerable gap between the Nepal police and judicial committees. He says:
“Collaboration with judicial committees is key to successfully addressing the plight of GBV survivors, and we are committed to work together with judicial committees to provide better and more effective services to women and the marginalised.”
The Area Police Office (APO) has also started a counselling and referral mechanism to refer cases to the judicial committee and expects the same level of coordination from the judicial committee.
Safeguarding and strengthened services to GBV survivors is now one of the key priorities of the Nepal Police in their action plan, and they have designed school and community visits to inform, educate, and inspire communities about the police services, and to encourage unhindered and fearless reporting of GBV to the police.
About the SAFE Justice project
Access to justice is a major issue for the poorest and most marginalised groups in Nepal. Informal barriers include deeply entrenched norms and practices in Nepali society such as patriarchal family values, cultural norms, public gender discrimination, and caste-based social orders. Poverty, discriminatory implementation of legal provisions, under-representation of women and marginalised groups in the judicial service, physical distance to service providers specifically courts, and a lack of awareness of legal avenues are also major obstacles. CARE’s Strengthening Access to Fair and Equitable Justice (SAFE Justice) project has been working to build trust between poor and marginalised communities particularly women and girls and formal and informal justice service providers, in order to enable marginalised populations to access fair and equitable justice.
The SAFE Justice project was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and implemented in five districts in Nepal (Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchowk, Accham and Bajura) between October 2016 and September 2019, as part of the DFID-funded Integrated Programme for Strengthening Security and Justice in Nepal.