The month of February also saw some controversial rulings by both the Supreme Court as well as the Pokhara High Court. Cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane was granted permit to fly abroad despite much controversy. However, based on his laudable performance at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 series at Kathmandu, his participation at Dubai next could be crucial for Nepal’s success. Similarly, actor Paul Shah was acquitted by Pokhara High Court citing lack of evidence. In another disturbing incident, a supposed ‘Chinese uncle’ held several Nepali young girls hostage, promising them money and employment. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Watch cited Nepal’s Social Protection Policy to be reinforcing inequality rather.
Timeline of Major Events
||Pokhara High Court acquitted actor Paul Shah of child sex abuse charges.
||The Supreme Court granted cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane to fly outside of the country.
||Yang Li Ming, or ‘Chinese uncle’ arrested for holding innocent girls hostage.
Paul Shah Acquitted
On February 27, Actor Paul Shah was released from Tanahun prison and was acquitted from child sex abuse charges earlier made by the Pokhara High Court. The verdict was issued by a joint bench of acting chief justice Dilliraj Acharya and judge Shreedhara Kumari Pudasaini, citing that the case lacked evidence to establish charges. Earlier, Shah
was sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the District Court of Nawalparasi East for child sexual abuse, along with a compensation of 25,000 rupees to be paid to the victim. Shah then filed an appeal to the High Court against the decision.
On April 17, 2022, Samikshya Adhikari, the minor who had accused Shah of raping her, retracted her statement citing that she was provoked by others to file the complaint. “Paul did not rape me. I registered the complaints after being provoked by other,” said Adhikari. Earlier, she had claimed that Shah had raped her in Pokhara, Tanahun and Gaidakot. Together with Adhikari, her father had also lodged a compliant at the District Police Office in Tanahun on February 23 stating that Shah had repeatedly
raped his daughter.
While Shah’s fans laud this decision, critics, on the other hand question if Adhikari was forced to retract her statement, due to fear, stigma, or disbelief. The issue of statutory rape is a sensitive and complex one, that requires careful consideration. While it is important to question the legitimacy of statutory rape, it is also crucial to ensure that proper investigations are conducted to determine the truth of the matter. Any allegations of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously, and all parties involved should be given the opportunity to present their side of the story.
Accused Sandeep Lamichhane Leads Nepal to Victory
On February 14th
, Sandeep Lamichhane celebrated Nepal’s win with Namibia and Scotland, respectively, during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2, held in Kathmandu. As the tri series progresses, Nepal will now be playing against UAE and Papua New Guinea at Dubai. For Lamichhane to play with the UAE and Papua New Guinea, he’d need the Supreme Court to revoke its earlier bail conditions and permit him to fly outside the nation. On February 27th
, the Supreme Court granted Lamichhane the said permit. On March, Lamichhane will be flying to Dubai, UAE for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 series.
Although Lamichhane performed well in the tri-series against Namibia and Scotland that took place in Kathmandu, rights activists cite that it is still problematic to let someone accused of as serious of a crime as rape to first be given bail, and to add to that, be permitted to represent the national sport team in international platform. Some fans protested his participation, and Scottish players refused to shake hands with Lamichhane after the game, but Namibian players chose to bump fists instead
. Additionally, both teams’ boards issued statements before the series, denouncing
Teenager taken hostage by ‘Chinese Uncle’
Yang Li Ming, notoriously known as the ‘Chinese Uncle’ and the owner of the New Koka Purian Mattress Company located in Bungmati, was arrested in his alleged involvement in human trafficking and extortion. On February 14, a 13-year-old girl from Mechinagar, Jhapa convinced her friends at school to accompany her to Kathmandu, claiming that a ‘Chinese uncle’ had invited her and promised her work. The girl, Jawlakhel 19, who was living with her mother, was contacted by the Chinese uncle through Facebook. When she did not come home for two consecutive days, Jawlakhel 19’s mother made a police complaint; however, on February 17, the victim made a short phone call to her mother saying that she is in Kathmandu. Tracking the number, the police was able to trace Yang Li Ming.
The police raided the company – New Koka Purian Mattress’ premises and found that five girls were being held hostage by Yang Li Ming. According to the Senior Superintended of Police, Siddhavikram Shah, the investigation is still ongoing, as they suspect that Yang Li Ming is holding more hostages. The investigation has revealed that the girls were lured with financial inducements and were encouraged to listen to Chinese songs while teaching them anti-Nepal subjects. The police also found Chinese songs on the girls’ mobile phones.
Call for the New Government to be More Inclusive
A recent feature report by the Human Rights Watch cites
Nepal’s Social Protection System to be ‘reinforcing inequality’. The report suggests that the newly elected government in Nepal should now focus on providing coverage to all children as well as millions of informal workers, while considering change to the existing system. The report iterates that, the social protection system in Nepal falls short in protecting children from poverty and creates further disparities between informal and formal workers. While the government, in the past, has made attempts to target social protection at those in poverty, this approach can have negative consequences, preventing vulnerable households from accessing social security. Targeted programs can be narrow, expensive, and prone to corruption, making it difficult for eligible individuals to apply, sometimes also due to stigma. “Nepal has made important strides in expanding social protection, but large groups, particularly children and informal workers, are being left behind,’ said Lena Simet, senior economic justice researcher at Human Rights Watch.