Fighting against Sexual Abuse and Harassment in Nepal

 Kathmandu Nepal: With high stacks on the table and bad politics making a deadlock situation, people of Nepal are buzzing about a new issue that is directly affecting their daily lives. These days with the international attention of the Delhi rape case, Nepal is also buzzing around with its own cases of sexual exploitation and harassment against women.  The fury of people is raging so much that people have started making it obvious in their status in social networking sites. People in Nepal are seriously making a point in regulating proper rules and regulation regarding the concern issue. Like such a group of activists have teamed up to summon a petition letter to the prime minister regarding the current situation. The group has uploaded a letter petition and has requested the concerned public to sign and to submit it live this Friday, Dec 28, at Prime Minister Residence, Baluwatar, Gate#3, between 9-12 pm. 

The letter highlights a case of sexually abused migrant worker Sita Nepali who was raped and later robbed off her hard earned money by a security personnel at the Tribhuvan International Airport. During her arrival she was interrogated by Somnath Khanal, an immigration official at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and then forwarded to the Immigration headquarters in Kalikasthan for further interrogation. Later her hard-earned wages was stolen, and then she was handed over to a police where Parsuram Basnet a police constable eventually raped her.  A question has been raised regarding the safety and security of  women as well as their status. Likewise in a similar in 2011 an immigration official was caught live demanding a bribe of 1.5 million in case of rejection/ fraud case of Nepali citizenship.

“How can this be happening? How can we trust the people who are suppose to protect and help us? It is surely not tolerable,” said Prakriti Pandey a student.

Moving ahead on Wednesday an 18 years old girl was burnt alive in Bara district. The deceased has been identified as Dindu Thakur of Prastoka-5.  According to the police her body was found burnt 50 meters away from her house at around 7 am in the morning where she was fine before going out for toilet.

Looking at the legal provisions:

Nepali law penalizes sexual abuse with three months in prison for the perpetrator and a fine of 25,000 rupees ($300) to compensate the victim on the other hand the Muluki Ain in Nepal Regarding Rape, Chapter 14 translates :

No. 1 : Having sexual intercourse with an unmarried girl, a widow or someone’s wife under sixteen years of age with or without her consent and with one above sixteen years of age without her consent by using force or showing threat or even under inappropriate influence is proved to be a rape case.

No. 2 :For raping a woman within kinship, the one who rapes will get punishment mentioned in the chapter regarding sexual intercourse within kinship in addition to the punishment in accord with this chapter. As for the case of life imprisonment, the punishment for rape will not be added.

No. 3 : One who commits rape should be imprisoned for six upto ten years if the woman raped is under fourteen years of age, and for three upto five years if the woman is fourteen or above fourteen years of age.

No. 4 : One who knowingly accompanies the one who intends to commit rape, and who grabs the woman or helps in the act should be punished upto one year each. As for the case of a girl under fourteen years of age, he will be punished doubly.

No. 5 : The one who has made an attempt to rape but has not committed rape will get punished equal to half of the one’s who has committed it.

No. 6 : If someone has instigated someone else to commit rape, the one who has instigated to perform the act will, in the case of rape having committed, get punishment equal to half of the rapist’s, and in the case of attempted but not actually committed rape, he will get equal to half of the attempt maker’s punishment.

No. 7: If someone has a sexual intercourse with prostitution without her consent, the one who commits it will either be fined an amount of Rs. five hundred or imprisoned upto one year.

“We face this every day in the buses, men try to grab us by our bum and they try to touch us everywhere at times when it’s too much, I shout but what’s the call, nothing. There is no means to curb it until and unless there is prominent and instant action. I believe that government has to seriously look into this matter but why not is my question. They have the police they have the 100 emergency why not use it as a means to report harassment case and instant action to be taken. This would certainly de-motivate the culprits,” said Prabha Amatya          

Nepali women face constant sexual harassment on public transportation during their daily activities. Though rule and regulation are their but due to public humiliation women deter from reporting incidents. Laws are in place to protect women from abuse, but reports and enforcement of penalties are rare where the gap in between the law and practicability certainly makes it difficult for the public to relate to them.

According to a study of International Labour Organization(ILO), “ In this study conducted in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Dharan, Biratnagar, Birganj and Hetauda, it is evident that over half of the interviewed women had themselves experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. Yet, this subject had not been discussed openly in Nepal until a few years ago. The prevalent mental attitude in the society has been, Men are men. Women have to just tolerate this behaviour. It is their fate. As this study reflects, sexual harassment affects the victims in forms of emotional stress, humiliation, anxiety, depression, anger, powerlessness, fatigue and physical illnesses. The victim may lose her/his job or job-related experiences such as training, or feel that the only solution is to resign. The sufferings of the victim can have a direct effect on the enterprises as sexual harassment practices can create tension in the workplace, inefficiency in team work and collaboration, lowered work performance, absenteeism and decreased productivity. Moreover, if sexual harassment incidents are overlooked, the enterprises can earn a tarnished public image and face financial risks in case the victim goes forward to make the situation public and opt for court actions.”

The report adds sexual harassment at the workplace not only affects the individual in question but also the organization. Efforts have to be made in eliminating this persisting problem. The present study is intended to initiate and mobilize opinions in this regard; showing how societal perceptions, attitudinal changes and appropriate rules and regulations framed within a specific law can contribute to address the incidence of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Nepal is currently on the edge of new political change, but the issues of sexual harassment and empowerment in women is not a political issue, it’s a social issue that needs effective attentions  from all sides. No matter what if women are not comfortable and independent to walk safely outside then there is no question of having effective laws and regulations. In-fact laws and regulation should be good enough to facilitate the victim and prevent the action from happening.