KATHMANDU, May 22: The United Nations Human Rights Committee has said the government of Nepal must adapt its definition of rape and other forms of sexual violence to meet international standards.
Responding to a complaint filed by Fulmati Nyaya (name changed), an indigenous woman who as a child was the victim of rape, torture and forced labor during the Maoist insurgency, the committee called on Nepal to remove obstacles that hindered the victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence in filing complaints. It has called on the government to ensure that the victims have access to justice and compensation.
In 2002, when the victim was 14 years old, soldiers entered her village looking for Maoists. Mistaking her for her older sister who had joined the Maoist party the previous year, they took her to army barracks where she was detained incommunicado, interrogated blindfolded, and raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence. She was also beaten up and forced to work that included carrying bricks and sand at the barracks.
Eventually freed by family members after more than a month and a half, she did not file complaint with any authority due to the social stigma attached to sexual violence in the Nepali society and lack of information about the pathway to seeking justice and compensation. It was only in 2014 when she attempted to register a complaint that she came up against Nepal's 35-day deadline (known in legal terms as a “statute of limitation,”) for reporting the crime of rape.
“Filing a complaint would have been materially impossible for her as she was being held in arbitrary detention at the time,” the committee wrote in its decision.
The committee called on Nepal to include in its legislation a significant increase of the statute of limitations, in line with the gravity of such crimes.
As remedies in Nepal's criminal justice system were both ineffective and unavailable to her, the victim took her complaints to the UN Human Rights Committee. An independent expert body composed of 18 international human rights experts, the committee has the mandate to examine allegations of human rights violations as Nepal in 1991 acceded to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Individuals can hold their states accountable to international human rights standards, and it is our hope Nepal will revise all its legislation which hinders victims, especially of sexual violence, in seeking justice. The government must also put in place measures and mechanisms to address past grievances,” said Ahmad Fathalla, chairperson of the committee.
In its decision, the committee requested Nepal to report back within 180 days detailing the measures it had been taken to remedy the situation.