Nepali society and, to a large extent, even the state seems to have become cruel to women, especially when it comes to delivering them justice and respecting their dignity. This despite the fact that a number of laws have been framed to abolish social ills and to ensure that Nepali women, who make for over 50 percent of country’s total population, are treated equally and their dignity and wellbeing safeguarded. A heinous crime has been committed against a woman in Dang district simply because she refused to sell her land. Dilmaya Pun of Sitganga Municipality-9 of Dang district has been mercilessly thrashed by none other than women themselves. Rekha Gupta and Anita Gupta, two locals from her community, wanted Dilmaya to sell the piece of her land for meager Rs 50,000. When she refused, they stripped her half naked in public, slapped her, pulled her hair and kicked her in the face. And in shameful display of flagrant insensitivity, members of the public just watched on while Dilmaya was pleading for help.
Even the police supposedly sided with the perpetrators. Area Police Office (APO) tried to dismiss the case by saying that it was an “ordinary incident” forcing Dilmaya to agree on arbitration. Only after the video footage of the gruesome incident went viral in social media and public pressure built on, Rekha and Anita Gupta have been arrested and charged with public offence. Troublingly, what happened in Dang has been happening elsewhere too with marked frequency. On March 8, the International Women’s Day, Radha Chaudhary, an 18-year-old girl from Kailali, was brutally thrashed in front of hundreds of onlookers on charge of practicing witchcraft. She had been forcefully dragged out of her home and mercilessly beaten by the local shaman continuously for five hours, while the public watched on instead of rescuing her or reporting the incident to the police.
Why do such incidents happen while the state has already criminalized them? Why are women and girls subjected to live in seclusion in Chhau shed though the government has already declared the practice a punishable offense? Why do the members of public merely watch the gruesome violence meted out on women? Most victims end up without getting justice even if they file cases at the police because attempts are often made to settle the cases in hush hush or through police arbitration, especially if the victims are poor. And perpetrators do not fear the law. This is where we need to begin actions. The state needs to stand ruthlessly against any form of violence against women and girls. Years of advocacy for rights and awareness campaigns do not seem to have made much difference on the ground. It is time for the state to intervene and set the example that not a single perpetrator of violence against women, be it male or female, will go unpunished. Unless we set such a strong precedent, our mothers, sisters and daughters will continue to suffer. True identity of the just state is when it treats its women with respect, dignity and protects them from all ill practices, however entrenched they might be. Cruel practices demand severe punishment.