Hundreds of protestors have gathered outside the prime minister’s office and elsewhere around the country demanding reform after the latest horrifying allegations of rape in Nepal. In a series of devastating social media posts last week, a 24-year-old woman said that when she was 16, she had been drugged, raped, filmed, and then blackmailed by the organizer of a beauty pageant.
Other women have since come forward and shared their own stories of being assaulted, some when they were children, many saying they faced blackmail.
The protesters, mostly young women, are demanding justice for girls and women. They are calling on the government to end the one year statute of limitations for rape, and establish fast track courts to deal with the rapidly growing number of cases. On May 24, female lawyers went to the Supreme Court to argue that the statute of limitations violates constitutional rights that guarantee a right to justice for victims of crime, and are meant to ensure that all acts of sexual violence are punishable by law.
A 2021 report on sexual violence in South Asia noted that despite thousands of rape allegations being filed every year in Nepal, almost two-thirds do not end in conviction. Every year, many more cases go unreported.
Among those still seeking justice are survivors of rape committed during Nepal’s civil war, who have been excluded from compensation programs and are systematically denied recognition or justice.
In a society where rape survivors continue to face death threats, harassment, victim-blaming, stigma, and embarrassment, it may take longer than a year to muster the courage to file a complaint. Nepal’s statute of limitations for rape is therefore a major obstacle to justice.
Nepal’s government should ensure all rape allegations are investigated, whenever the alleged crime was committed, and cut lengthy delays in processing cases, while ensuring fairness in proceedings. The government should also act urgently to address online gender-based violence, including preventing and punishing blackmail. Survivors of sexual violence need legal assistance, counseling, and support in removing images and videos from the internet.
The protesters are fed up with waiting for survivors to get the help and justice they deserve. The government should take swift action to remediate the situation.