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Sita speaks

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

More than a month after Sita filed a complaint against officials at the Department of Immigration (DoI), which inspired a series of protest against gender violence, the 20-year-old’s quest for justice remains in limbo.

Sita worked as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia for three years before returning to Nepal in November. She was caught at Tribhuwan International Airport for possessing a fake passport. 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 took her money, saying it was for ‘high-ranking officials’. Once they let her go, Basnet took her to a lodge in old Bus Park promising to help her get back to her home in Bhojpur. He then proceeded to rape her throughout the night.

Sita’s case helped put the spotlight on gender violence and pressurised the government to form a high level violence against women monitoring committee to investigate other cases including Shiwa Hasmi of Bardiya district, Saraswoti Subedi of Anamnagar, Bindu Kumari of Bara district, and Chhori Maya Maharjan of Kathmandu.

The committee which submitted its report to the prime minister on 16 January implicated Director General (DG) Suresh Adhikari and Director Lekh Raj Pokharel of DoI guilty of robbing Sita, however both Adhikari and Pokharel stil remain in their posts. Angry protesters burnt the report in front of Baluwatar saying the state was not doing enough and shying away from its responsibilities.

Sita is unaware about the report, but she is getting increasingly impatient about the delay in justice. While Basnet and Somnath Khanal of DoI are now behind bars, she is still awaiting the arrest of two section officers Tika Pokharel and Ram Prasad Koirala of DoI. “I don’t understand why the government is delaying justice and not punishing the criminals?” asks a frustrated Sita.

She admitted to having an abortion during a radio interview with BBC Nepal last week, and says she is ready to face the consequences. “Most of my relatives and friends in Bhojpur will eventually come to know about what happened to me,” she says, “I just hope that they won’t treat me like social pariah.” She wants her relatives and neighbours to acknowledge her courage for the fight for justice instead of focusing on the past. Says Sita: “What happened was not my fault, I hope I will be able to help other young girls from falling the same trap.” Sita’s is currently in therapy to help her to recover from the immense mental and emotional trauma and start a new life.

However, it is getting tough for Sita and her family who have had to make frequent trips from Bhojpur to the capital. Her brother in Kathmandu has been the strongest advocate, but is getting disillusioned by the state’s apathy. “It took Sita a lot of courage to come forward, I don’t want her hopes to be shattered,” he says.

Her parents went back last week to make arrangements for her youngest brother who is living with their grandfather. “We have all been going from one office to another appealing for justice and have reached this far, but the government’s lack of interest is slowly killing our fighting spirit,” admits Sita.

Bhrikuti Rai

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