Sita went to Saudi Arabia to work as a domestic three years ago. An agent in Pokhara found her a job, got her tickets via Delhi, and organised a passport in someone else's name.
When she returned to Kathmandu in November, the 20-year-old from Bhojpur was arrested for possessing a fake passport at immigration. Then her ordeal began: not from abusive employers in the Gulf but from Nepali immigration and police.
After being threatened with detention by immigration officials at Kathmandu airport, and scared of being jailed and bringing dishonour to her family, Sita admitted her true identity. During the interrogation at the immigration office in Kalikasthan police constable Parsuram Basnet agreed to help her out only if she gave him a part of the 9,500 Riyal (Rs 222,624) she had saved while working abroad. When she refused, the officials snatched her bag and took her money, saying it was for "high-ranking officials". Then she was asked to sign a blank piece of paper by immigration official, Somnath Khanal, who said if she told anyone what had happened he would throw her in jail.
Meanwhile, Basnet was busy playing good cop and offered to get her a ticket to Bhojpur. He took her to Basnet Lodge at Old Bus Park and raped her repeatedly through the night. "He almost strangled me to death when I screamed for help," says Sita, who only remembers being smothered with a pillow and passing out. In the morning, her purse was open, with her remaining money also gone. Basnet then put her on a bus to Bhojpur and gave her his contact number. He kept calling her over the next month, pressuring her to marry him.
Ashamed, Sita didn't speak about her ordeal until she broke down one day and told her sister everything. Her family was outraged and filed a complaint against Basnet and Khanal on 16 December. Says Sita's father: "We don't care about getting the money back, all we want is justice for my daughter."
A report submitted by a probe panel formed under the Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday accuses immigration officials Ram Prasad Koirala, Tika Pokhrel, Somnath Khanal and Parsuram Basnet for the robbery. The senior immigration officials have been suspended for two months, while Basnet is in jail. The Home Secretary said this week all the accused would be punished under the Civil Servant Act 1993, but Sita's family wants Basnet to be charged for a criminal offence.
Sita has just found out she is pregnant, and doesn't want to keep her child. Sita wears a blue embroidered scarf and peers out of a small window in her rented room in Balaju, and gives her young nephew a dazzling, dimpled smile. She sees us to the door, and says: "Now, I just wish they get punished for what they did to me."
Sita left her home in Bhojpur five years ago, worked at a restaurant in Pokhara before she left for Saudi Arabia after an agent gave her a passport belonging to Bimala KC and sent her to Delhi. In Saudi Arabia, she was abused by her employers.
"They treated me like an animal," recalls Sita, "not just the house owners but even their children used to beat me mercilessly." When her employer tried to rape her, she escaped and got another job in a household where the employers were kinder. She saved enough to send presents home, and at the end of three years decided to come back to Nepal with her savings.
Sita's case would probably have been forgotten if her cousin hadn't caught Basnet and taken him to the police station at Hanuman Dhoka. "Had Sita told us what had happened earlier, maybe the guilty would have been punished by now," says the cousin, who runs a tea shop near Balaju.
Basnet reportedly tried to stop Sita from filing a case, and even offered to return the money. Sita is now searching for counselling and assistance, in the fight for justice and hopes to get back on her feet.
Sita's name has been changed.
Rape for ransom, SHATRUDHAN KUMAR SHAH in MAHOTTARI
Police don't arrest rapists in the eastern Tarai, they give in to local pressure and marry them off to their victims