Rights Activists Ask

Why a deadline for sexual assault victims to get justice?

Published On: May 21, 2022 07:50 PM NPT By: Sajira Shrestha

KATHMANDU, May 21: It is only fair and rational to think that the deadline for justice should be when the victims get justice and the perpetrators get punished. However, the National Penal Code Act 2017, Chapter 18, Section 229 (2), statute of limitations, states that “no complaint shall lie after the expiry of one year from the date of commission of any of the offences such as rape, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, among others.”  

It is not clear what might have been the rationale behind keeping such a statute of limitation. But this provision has been highly problematic as ‘culture silence’ in case of rape and other forms of sexual violence still prevails in Nepali society. By the time the victims of such crimes make a resolve to speak up and fight for justice, it may be too late already.

“Trauma is trauma regardless of the period of time,” said a Master's Degree graduate. “Trauma haunts you for a lifetime. When this kind of limitation is set by the law, the survivors who are trying to come out are easily discouraged,” she said, asking not to be named.

“If we look through history, the statute of limitation is quite progressive as it was set for just 45 days before 2072 BS. Similarly, it was set for six months between 2072 BS to 2075 BS until the Criminal Code was introduced in 2017,” said Prapoosa KC, a human rights activist and lawyer.

KC, however, believes that there should not be any limitation for the survivors to file a case in courts. “We are also trying to file a petition at the Supreme Court regarding the extension of statute of limitation for rape victims this week.”

Highlighting how problematic this provision is, a group of rights activists on Friday and Saturday took to the streets in Kathmandu demanding justice for a young girl who was first sexually assaulted and abused in 2014 when she was barely 16 years old. The perpetrator was a celebrity, who also happened to be the organizer of a beauty pageant of which she was one of the contestants. 

The victim maintained silence for long thinking how society would take her. This was because she was still young, barely able to understand things around her. But as she has made a resolve to speak up and fight for justice, authorities would not accept her complaint arguing that the statute of limitation for filing cases against such perpetrators is already over. The activists have demanded an extension of the statute of limitation and revision of the penalties related to sexual violence against women.

The victim, who recently released a series of 20 videos on Tiktok, revealing heart-wrenching stories of how she was assaulted and abused, released yet another video on Thursday night stating that she is losing hope as the court would not file the sexual harassment case if it is not registered within a year.

According to the victim, the alleged abuser at first called her to attend a celebration event as she was placed first runner up in the beauty pageant and later drugged and abused her. She claimed that the abuser even handed her Rs 20,000 and blackmailed her stating that he had taken her private photos and would expose those if she tried to inform anyone about the incident. Since then the abuser continued to manipulate as well as sexually abuse her for the next six months.

While she had said that she did not want to name the accused and other people related to the incident as there was no evidence of sexual violence, she later exposed the name of the alleged abuser name, who she said is Manoj Pandey. The victim has also complained that former Miss Nepal Malvika Subba did not provide her any help when she told her about the incident. Instead of helping her, Subba said that it was her problem that she got raped, not hers and asked instead why was she telling her about the incident. The victim has also shared the stories of how she was sexually abused at her workplace and by her former boyfriend.

Meanwhile, former Miss Nepal Subba has issued a public apology from her Instagram account on Thursday stating that what she had done at that time was unforgivable. She also apologized for not being able to support her. “You have every right to be angry with me and I deserve all the hate that I am getting because I truly failed you. I totally admit that by not supporting you then, I have contributed to the injustice you have suffered,” Subba said.

The revelation of the incident has sent the country by storm and people from every walk of life are demanding justice for the victim. The issue has drawn further attention after an influential youth leader and General Secretary of Nepali Congress (NC) Gagan Thapa raised this issue in parliament and demanded immediate investigation to bring the culprit to justice on Friday.

Before discussion on deliberations on the principles and priorities of the Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2022-23 took place in parliament, Thapa also drew the government’s attention to reconsider the provision of statute of limitations (i.e one year). In response to this, Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota also directed the government's attention to provide justice to the victim by bringing the alleged culprit under the purview of law. 

While the Home Minister, too, said the incidents had drawn his attention, the police headquarters formed a five-member committee on Friday led by Senior Superintendent of Police, Basanta Bahadur Kunwar to investigate the matter and take action accordingly.

If the case is registered within the time limit, it does not mean that the victim's complaint should be filed in the case where the government is a plaintiff. The Supreme Court has directed the police to investigate the case even if no complaint has been filed in case the victim is unable to file a complaint due to social stigma, embarrassment, fear of the culprit, their level of consciousness, socio-economic status and family status. 

“As the court has already mentioned how the sensitive cases of rape and sexual harassment should not be delayed by things such as statute of limitations. We should see if the Supreme Court provides leverage for the old cases that are coming out in the present,” said Prapoosa KC. 


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