Most of the women have experienced various forms of sexual harassment and/or rape once in their lifetimes. Rape is a heinous crime, perpetrated by men or women on men or women, to show their power or to bring their power into play. Rape is one of the major issues which has not been acknowledged properly, whether it be in developing countries like Nepal or developed countries like the USA. The law and the government do not see this as a matter of concern . Young girls are growing up in fear; fear of being harassed, raped and killed which is increasing every day. Parents are afraid for the future of their daughters owing to the increasing number of violence against women.
Survivors of sexual violence report the abuse but a lot of people do not come out due to the existing difficulties in doing so. However, in recent days, with the help of #MeToo movement, a lot of people have dared to come out and share their stories through social media. But there still are victims who are unaware about the movement or who do not have access to internet do so or cannot share or have guts to report the incident. Not surprisingly, usually women are blamed for the sexual violence against them but all the survivors should know that it is not their fault but it is a fault of the patriarchal mindsets of the perpetrators.
Looking at the history of rape in different countries, discrimination happening in different cases of rape or sexual violence is also not only related to social or gender perspectives, but also the use of power play. The way some of these cases have ended is very disappointing as individuals involved in these cases have gone scot free because of their access to powerful people. Some of the cases from India, the USA and Nepal portray miserable and disappointing verdict.
In India, on 10 January 2018, a Muslim girl named Asifa Bano of Rasana village near Kathua in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, was kidnapped and taken to a Hindu temple. She was forcibly given drugs, raped and was then killed by smashing her head with a big rock. Her body was found in the forest after a week. The police arrested eight men, including one retired government official and two police men. Sanji Ram, a 60-year-old retired government officer and caretaker of the temple where the crime took place, was accused of plotting the murder along with four police officers Deepak Khajuria, Surender Verma, Anand Dutta and Tilak Raj. Ram’s son, Vishal Jangotra, and his nephew, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and his friend Parvesh Kumar were also arrested on 28 April 28 2018. On 7 May 2018, the Supreme Court transferred the case out of Jammu and Kashmir to Pathankot; the proceedings to be held every day and there with no adjournment. The trial was closed to the press and the public as per the top court’s order. On 14 November 14 2018, the family of Asifa Bano decided to drop their lawyer Deepika Rajawat as she was not able to be present in the court. Ms. Rajawat said that she received death threats after being associated with the case. There has been no update about the incident after this.
In the USA, on 30 July 2018, Christine Blasey Ford, currently a professor at Palo Alto University, accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault for an incident that occurred when the two attended separate high schools in Bethesda, Md. President Donald Trump supported Kavanaugh and said that he is not a man that deserves this and it is very unfair what is going on. On 27 September 2018, Kavanaugh and Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Ford, the first woman to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct, alleges that the nominee attempted to assault her at the house party in the 1980s. But he denied the allegation. The judge denied Ford’s testimony. Weeks after, Brett Kavanaugh was declared and sworn in as the 114th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Similarly in Nepal, on 27 July 2018, a body of 13-year-old girl, Nirmala Pant, was found in the middle of a sugarcane field, who went missing from the midday of 26 July 2018. After the investigation, it was concluded that she was raped before being was murdered. The video of police destroying the evidences by washing up her clothes and cleaning her body went viral in the media. This incident shocked and traumatized everyone in the country. On 18 December 2018, Durga Devi, Nirmala Pant’s mother, filed the complaint against the then SP Dilli Raj Bista, DSP duo Angur GC and Gyan Bahadur Sethi, inspectors Jagadish Bhatta and Ekindra Khadka, sub-inspector Harihar Singh Dhami, assistant sub-inspector Ramsingh Dhami and Constable Chadani Saud, blaming them for destroying evidence of the gruesome crime during investigation. On 7 March 2019, a case was lodged by the Office of District Attorney at Kanchanpur District Court against eight police officials for their alleged involvement in torture and evidence destruction in connection with Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder case. On 15 March, Durga Devi requested to cancel her FIR against eight police who were expelled for damaging and clearing all the evidence from the site. She said she doesn’t want innocent people to be punished but wants her daughter’s soul to be given proper justice. Women Rights Activist Sharada Chand, who has been actively involved in seeking justice for Nirmala, thinks Durga has been threatened and government is trying to save the real perpetrators who are involved in this.
The government should take violence against women seriously. There should be proper laws in place to address these crimes. The police should investigate every case properly and take bring perpetrators to justice. They should work on making the country a safer place. A woman or a girl should be able to live without fear of violence; whether it is outside the house, at workplace, or at education center. When the victims come to report the incident, the police department should take immediate action and not try to destroy the evidence. The policy should be strong and be applied to all irrespective of who the perpetrators are, whether they are teachers, relatives, politicians or anyone from the street.
- Gettleman, Jeffrey. 2018. April 11. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/world/asia/india-girl-rape.html.
- Ayyar, Kamakshi. 2018. April 27. http://time.com/5255375/kathua-india-rape-case-trial/.
- Chatterjee, Debjani. 2018. July 2. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/kathua-rape-and-murder-trial-supreme-court-tells-witnesses-to-go-to-high-court-for-protection-1876537.
- NDTV Newspaper. 2018. November 15. https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/kathua-victims-family-drops-lawyer-says-she-barely-appeared-in-court-1947864. s. n.d.
- Estepa, Erin Kelly and Jessica. 2018. September 24. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/09/24/brett-kavanaugh-allegations-timeline-supreme-court/1408073002/.
- Bhatta, Bhawani. 2018. December 18. https://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2018-12-18/mother-files-case-against-police-for-destroying-proof.html. s. n.d.
- 2018. March 13. https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/kanchanpur-district-court-issues-warrant-against-dilli-bista-angur-gc/.
- The Himalayan Times. 2019. March 15. https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nirmalas-mother-points-at-bista-who-was-cleared-by-dna-test-activists-say-she-is-under-threats/.
Author: Pratik Gurung
Photo: Sushma Bhatta