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Nepali authorities should immediately investigate and prosecute the September 2010 gang rape, physical assault, and forced displacement of 30-year-old Gauri Yadav in Siraha district, Human Rights Watch said today. To date, Nepali police have failed to protect Yadav from ongoing intimidation and attacks by the alleged perpetrators, and, according to Yadav, have pressured her to drop the case.

Yadav has described how on September 30, 2010, five neighborhood men raped her and then severely beat her with sticks on her thighs, lower legs, and buttocks. Despite evidence and names of perpetrators provided by Yadav, the police have yet to conduct a proper investigation and ensure prosecution in the case. Instead, she and her husband have been targeted and harassed repeatedly by the alleged perpetrators for filing a police complaint. On February 9, 2011, the same people attacked Yadav and beat her severely, resulting in five days of hospitalization, she told Human Rights Watch. Yadav's family told Human Rights Watch that the alleged attackers also set fire to a haystack and destroyed lentil crops on Yadav's land to put pressure on her to withdraw the case. Yadav has fled her village and is seeking refuge elsewhere.

"A woman has produced strong evidence that she has been gang raped, kidnapped, and brutally beaten, and law enforcement agencies are telling her to go away," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The authorities should do everything they can to stop further attacks on Yadav and prosecute those responsible."

Yadav described to Human Rights Watch how she was taken from her relative's house, kicked to the ground, and stripped naked by her attackers. They used her sari to tie her arms to restrain her and tied her scarf around her mouth to smother her screams for help. Then, she said, two men held her down: "First, one raped me. After he got off of me, the second one raped me, then the third and fourth. The last person grabbed my breasts and forced his fingers in my vagina. All this went on for [what seemed like] an hour. Then they carried me to the nearby canal and washed me. After this, all the five men continuously beat me with sticks."

When Human Rights Watch interviewed Yadav two months after the attack, black and blue marks were still visible on her thighs, lower legs, and buttocks. Yadav told Human Rights Watch that following the rape, the men sought assistance from a local Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) politician, who forcefully confined Yadav in his residence for three days without any access to medical treatment. The alleged perpetrators and the politician also threatened the family to try to stop them from filing a police complaint.

On the third day, a local villager informed the police about the rape and detention. The police intervened, and Yadav's family was finally able to take her to a hospital in Dharan, a city in eastern Nepal. The medical report, which Human Rights Watch obtained, confirms that Yadav was hospitalized for nine days and that the hospital staff reported the case to the eastern regional police office in Biratnagar, who then transferred the case to the district police office in Siraha.

Yadav informed Human Rights Watch that the police inspector in the district police office in Siraha attempted to pressure her into dropping her complaint against two of the perpetrators, including against the local political leader. In addition, he insisted that Yadav agree to an informal settlement with her perpetrators. Yadav organized a press conference with the help of a local journalist. Subsequently, police registered her complaint against all six individuals. But the police have failed to carry out any credible investigation or arrest the attackers for the rape, arson, kidnapping, or physical assault, Human Rights Watch said.

Yadav told Human Rights Watch: "I have been beaten again because the culprits are free and have not been punished. I have received no help from the police. My daughter and sons have stopped going to school due to fear. They [perpetrators] are freely wandering in the village. This makes me feel helpless and weak. I want them to be punished."

"The perpetrators clearly feel emboldened by the police's failure to arrest and prosecute these men," Pearson said. "That Gauri Yadav was subsequently beaten and had to flee her village will make other rape survivors think twice before seeking justice."

The problem of the failure to investigate and prosecute rape has been extensively documented by national and international organizations, such as the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (UN OHCHR- Nepal), Advocacy Forum - Nepal, and Women's Rehabilitation Centre. In its recent report to the UN Human Rights Council, OHCHR reported that in cases of sexual assault, "instances of the police taking proactive steps to register a case ex officio are rare," and even when a survivor reports a crime to the police, "police frequently delay the registration process, including by insisting upon a medical report..." The report further described that "it is usually the police or local authority figures who encourage victims to seek a settlement [‘mediation'] with the alleged perpetrator often under pressure from local political parties, particularly if a party affiliate is involved."

Nepali authorities also should speak out against mediation in sexual violence cases and hold accountable police officers who fail to register and investigate these cases.

Nepali police should immediately investigate Yadav's case and ensure prosecutions where there is evidence. They should also investigate the ongoing attacks and efforts at intimidation to seek an informal settlement of the case.

The Nepali police authorities should conduct a full and transparent investigation into the case, Human Rights Watch said. The investigation should include alleged police pressure to drop the charges against two alleged perpetrators and the allegations of local political interference.

"Yadav's case is emblematic of police inaction while investigating rape cases and shows apparent political interference even in severe crimes such as rape," Pearson said. "Instead of pressuring and further punishing victims of sexual violence, Nepal needs to make sure they get justice."

Nepal has ratified the United Nations Convention on Elimination on all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention Against Torture (CAT), and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and therefore has an obligation to take positive measures to protect survivors of gender-based violence and carry out thorough, impartial, and prompt investigations into allegations of rape and file criminal charges where appropriate.

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