26 Sep - 2 Oct 2014 #726

Statute of denial

Nepal’s archaic laws put a deadline on reporting sex crimes
Mallika Aryal
When Nepal passed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Act back in May, it ruled out amnesty for war-era rapes. It was considered a step in the right direction. However, Nepal’s Muluki Ain still retains a 35-day statute of limitation on reporting rape, which blocks investigation as well as prosecution of rapes that happened during the conflict that ended eight years ago.

There are over 100 cases of sexual violence documented by the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). Advocacy Forum alone has over 200 cases. Rights workers say they haven’t even started to scratch the surface when it comes to investigating instances of rape and sexual violence during the conflict.

The TRC Act may rule out amnesty for those accused of rape but the provision in the Muluki Ain gives de facto amnesty to perpetrators. Up until now, not a single wartime rape or sexual violence case has been investigated. No survivor feels safe enough to come forward and seek justice.

When the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) was signed in 2006, one of the provisions was to provide relief, including financial assistance to the conflict affected. This group included family members of those who were killed, abducted, widowed, internally displaced, among others. But rape and sexual violence survivors were not on the list, and never received the Interim Relief Package. A Human Rights Watch report released this week in Kathmandu strongly urges the government to amend the Package and provide reparations to the survivors of sexual violence and rape.

Reparations are especially important to victims of sexual violence because that is as close to justice as they will have seen. Many want an apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoings, but that is not what they need immediately. What is important is a way to live their day-to-day lives, and take care of themselves and their families. The state has systematically forgotten this group of women who have been living in pain for the last decade.

In 2013 Nepal’s Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction formed guidelines for psycho-social counseling. But rape and sexual violence survivors are not mentioned anywhere in the document. Counseling is imperative for the survivors but also for their families. Access to those services has been denied to the survivors and their families, forcing them to live in fear and pain.

The clause in the TRC that rules out amnesty for rape is a half-hearted attempt to silence survivors. If that silence was broken, many names would come forward. And those names would include officers of the security forces, armed police, Nepal Army, as well as Maoist leaders who have thus far enjoyed impunity. The state will not be able to keep them safe if there are repercussions.

Rights activists say that the statue of limitation may be extended to six months but there is no official word on this. Since May, a group of women’s rights activists has been standing in a busy corner next to the CA building, demanding that rape laws be changed. Many leaders have met with members, many promises have been made, but there has been no movement.

Nepal’s limitation for filing rape complaints is absurd and archaic, this barbaric law should be changed. If changing the Muluki Ain is going to take time, make special provisions for war-era rapes so that at least those cases are not stuck by this statue of denial. Quash impunity, take responsibility for the past, and don’t forget the women who have been silenced into suffering.

Twitter: @mikaness

Read also:

Death of justice, Editorial

Children of war, Kunda Dixit

Still missing them, Deepak Gyawali

The sad saga of the Adhikari family, Damakant Jayshi

On the sidelines of justice, Trishna Rana

The tale of two commissions, Binita Dahal

No war, no peace, Rubeena Mahato

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