13-19 June 2014 #711

Fighting spirit

In a society where women victims of rape usually remain silent because of fears of ostracisation, Sapana dared to seek justice.

Every morning Sapana practices Taekwondo at Raksha Nepal's building in Lainchaur. She started learning Taekwondo less than a year ago and was recently selected for an international tournament that will take place in South Korea next month. "I hope to bring home medals," says the vivacious 16 year old who has overcome a difficult past.

Sapana was on her way to the exam centre for the 2012 SLC examination in Kailapal of Baitadi when she was raped by Amar Raj Awasthi and Sagar Bhatta.

Basil Edward Teo

She was good in studies and was looking forward to good marks in her high school exams. The ordeal shattered her physically and emotionally, and she needed a year-long counseling before she could muster the courage to testify in court against the criminals.

In a society where women victims of rape usually remain silent because of fears of ostracisation by their own family or community, and threats from the families of the perpetrators, Sapana dared to seek justice.

Sapana testified against the two at the Baitadi District Court that sentenced the two men to 13 years in prison and fined them Rs 50,000 each. But less than two years after the district court’s decision, the Appellate Court in Mahendranagar released the two men last month. Sapana who has been living at a women’s shelter in Kathmandu since 2012 is furious that her rapists were set free: “How can the Appellate Court release them? Where am I supposed to go now?”

Human right activists following Sapana’s case are appalled by the court’s decision. “It is gross injustice to set those rapists free, we are disappointed and angered,” says Menuka Thapa of Raksha Nepal which has been supporting Sapana in her recovery process.

Government lawyer Prakash Bahadur Bhandari who has been fighting Sapana’ case says he is not satisfied with the court’s decision and will appeal for justice again. Sapana’s family came to know about the Appellate Court’s decision only when they saw their daughters’ rapists walking around in the village.

“They have started calling and sending threatening messages to not take any further action against them,” says Sapana’s father, “even the court decided to back the rapists, where is the justice for my daughter.”

After years of counseling Sapana was able to sit for SLC examinations this year. For someone who always topped her class, going back to school wasn’t difficult, but she was often haunted by the assault that changed her life two years ago. But Sapana is one determined, and for Nepal unusual, young woman: “I will not give up on my fight for justice, I want to see them rot in jail for the rest of their lives.”

Sapana admits that she is slowly losing her faith in the country’s justice system, and wants to be a lawyer one day. But for the moment she is more worried about the safety of her family, especially her young sister. Says Sapana: “Those men are monsters, I am worried they might harm my sister and will be able to get away with that too.”

Bhrikuti Rai with Bachhu BK in Baitadi

Sapana’s name has been changed

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