Why is the state so indifferent toward cases of sexual violence even as it has totally undermined rule of law, justice system, national security and good governance?
Having gone through the repeated news stories of unresolved case of Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder for months, I find myself frustrated, agonized and helpless at times questioning the national security and justice system of the state.
Children are considered as harbingers of happiness in life. Their giggle and smile are sources of energy to move on in life no matter how tough the circumstances are. The innocent and loving children are to be loved, cared and pampered and be given their deserving human rights including that of good nurture, protection and education. They should be able to enjoy their life happily. Our democratic, inclusive and rights-based Constitution guarantees the protection of human rights of women, girls and children in fair and equitable environment. All the more, Nepal is also the state party to 24 international human rights-related conventions and protocols, including seven of the nine core instruments. Nepal boasts its commitment to zero tolerance policy to any forms of sexual exploitation and abuse. But full implementation of these legislative measures is yet a far cry in Nepal.
Crime and impunity
The number of sexual crime is rising in an unprecedented manner victimizing three girls every week whereas a number of them go unreported due to the fear of stigmatization and conservative social structure. So disgusting are the cruel and inhuman men who see the girls of tender age as sexual objects. How could they rape and murder barely eight months old infants? They are lust-blind monsters who think minors as meek and mute targets who cannot sense and resist the wrongdoings and can be easily convinced or threatened to keep quiet.
At the moment, the ongoing investigation of rape and murder case of 13 years old Nirmala Panta in July 2018 is quite an example of dismay. Months pass by but the families can do nothing other than just keep waiting for justice for an unknown period of time. Demonstrations and protests are underway vainly pleading the authorities to promptly bring the criminals behind the bars. It is so disheartening when several suspects are arrested and freed repeatedly. Families and those showing concern for the sake of humanity are threatened to step back. The so-called efforts of investigation seem to be superficial and dramatic, designed to linger the case and let the real culprits live freely.
Such ruling out of humanity and human dignity mocks our judiciary, legal system and public loses trust in the state. Justice delayed is justice denied, goes the saying. Why is the state so indifferent toward cases of sexual violence even as it has totally undermined rule of law, justice system, national security and good governance?
I remember a popular saying by our ancient king Ram Shah Nyaya napaye Gorkha janu—go to justice if you are deprived of justice. I am not promoting monarchy here. The saying shows that justice was guaranteed in the past. How can we pay mere lip service to it today?
The concerned agencies should stop acting deaf to the united demand of victims’ parents, civil society, academia and students to respect victims’ rights to truth, justice, investigation, information and transparency.
Costs of justice delayed
The state really needs to be alarmed for the social cost that we are bearing due to the delayed investigation on sexual violence and prolonged impunity is getting higher. An ambience of insecurity, distrust, despair, fear and hopelessness strongly prevails in our society these days.
For instance, my female colleagues share their fear and anxiety after reading frequent news of rape and murder of young girls. Mothers can no longer trust anyone even in family now—not even blood relations such as fathers, brothers or uncles, forget friends and relatives. Even when the children are sent to schools, mothers worry if their children will return home safe. A kind of unknown fear and doubts always grip them inwardly. Is not it our collective responsibility to ensure and maintain safety and security as well as trust and faith in our society? The culprits need to be nabbed for their monstrous behavior irrespective of their social hierarchy. Justice should not be the game-play of handful of rich and powerful. It should be equal to every rich and poor.
No matter how strong legal remedies, if the perpetrators keep walking freely, those provisions become meaningless words. Robust efforts need to be redoubled for the strict implementation of the legal provisions reaching the furthest behind and the most vulnerable ones first. We need urgent action to protect and respect the rights and dignity of victims’ family. Measures including naming and shaming, death sentence as well as physical punishment such as chemical castrations should be introduced aiming to prosecute those convicted of sexual assaults resulting in death.
Meanwhile, children are to be made aware about their rights and security from early on. We can emulate some good practices from the Western countries like the US and Canada, where children are taught to report to the police immediately if they are abused. This system stops even parents from being harsh to their children. They do rethink before misbehaving or speaking loudly with their own children. This strategy can be utilized to minimize sexual violence of girls, children and women in our society.
As lawlessness is howling law enforcement must be made the top priority. The state must ensure that justice is granted. ‘Prosperous Nepal and Happy Nepali’ will be possible only when the state reinforces the rule of law, good governance and national security apart from raising people’s trust, faith and confidence. Let’s put to an end to justice delayed. Let’s save the future generation from horrific fate of sexual violence.
The author is a Section Officer at Ministry of Foreign Affairs