If the police does not help the victims, provide them protection and ensure that the criminals won't be able to walk away, rape victims will never be able to get justice.
It appears that Nepal will never be safe for women and girls. One might reach this conclusion after seeing a number of cases of sexual violence against women and girls across the country. Not a day passes by when we do not hear about a minor, a Dalit girl or a helpless woman being raped. A teenage girl was gang-raped inside a minibus in Bhaktapur on Saturday. She was reportedly drugged to unconsciousness by the rapists before this heinous assault. Additionally, a gruesome case of a woman being subjected to rape by her own father in-law and her husband has shaken the consciousness of the whole nation. Earlier to that, Samjhana BK, a Dalit girl, was raped in Bajhang and then murdered. Stories of horror go unabated even as girls and women and girls continue to lose their lives at the hands of the criminals. According to Nepal Police, 1,395 girls below 18 years were raped (murder after rape cases included) in the last fiscal year. Likewise, 1,420 girls were raped the year before. Over 50 percent of the rape and murder victims were minors, says the police data.
This is scary, shocking and deeply infuriating. One main reason why this is happening is because the perpetrators think they can get away with it after all, or cases will be mediated at the village level or at local police stations. When one rapist is allowed to walk scot-free, the other criminal minds could be inclined to commit similar crimes. Nirmala Panta, a school girl, was raped and murdered in Kailali in July, 2018. Two years and three months later, the police have not been able to identify the criminal and put him behind bars, despite days of protests across the country, despite huge media pressures at home and urgings from the international rights bodies.
Had the police arrested Nirmala's rapists and murderers and brought them to justice, it would at least set a precedent that perpetrators of rape crimes will finally have to rot in jail and it would perhaps have worked as a deterrent. Instead of standing firmly to protect the women and girls from rape, instead of reassuring that the culprits will be handed severe punishment, some ministers and lawmakers are making rather irresponsible statements about this heinous crime. Home Minister Ram BahadurThapa is reported to have dismissed the issue recently by saying that more incidents of rapes happen in other countries than Nepal and thus Nepal does not have to worry much about it. Lawmaker of the National Assembly Ram Narayan Bidari was lashed out on social media for his remarks suggesting that most cases of rape are consensual sex.
It would not be wrong to say that Nepal Police has not been swift enough in investigating the cases and jailing the rapists. Often, Nepal Police springs into action when there is public protest and media pressure. At this moment, because of the fear of COVID-19 pandemic, people cannot come out to the streets to raise their voice for justice. Thus if the police does not help the victims, provide them protection and ensure that the criminals won't be able to walk away, rape victims will never be able to get justice. We have seen rising cases of sexual violence against women have deeply agitated the people and instilled a sense of deep resentment against the justice delivery institutions and the government. Until the state can ensure, by action, that every single girl and woman is safe and that every single perpetrator of rape goes to jail, people will continue to rage against injustice. The government bodies too should feel this rage when life, dignity and freedom of women and girls are threatened.