Rape is a commonly heard word today in Nepal. It has been taking place with such frequency that even new parents are already worried about the safety of their daughters when they grow up. The surge in rape cases in our nation questions the safety of each and every female in their homes, neighbourhood, schools, colleges and offices, where they cannot trust anybody.
The recent rape and murder of 17-year-old Bhagrathi Bhatta of Baitadi shows how unsafe women and girls are. The rising cases of rape have made women feel insecure, who fear if they might not be the next Bhagrathi.
Data from the Nepal Police show that reported cases of rape or attempted rate increased significantly in 2019- 20.There were 2,144 reported cases of rape and 687 cases of attempted rape in comparison to 1,480 cases of rape and 727 cases of attempted rape in 2017-18. As per the Nepal Police Headquarters, on average seven persons are raped daily in Nepal, which means we could also be seeing as many persons murdered after rape on a daily basis.
Earlier, the rape and murder of 13-year-old Nirmala Panta from Kanchanpur and 12-year-old Samjhana BK from Bajhang had shocked the entire nation.
There are thousands of other rape victims who must be keeping silent to save their family's honour.
Persistent gender inequality, misogyny, impunity and indifference to sexual violence are major factors behind the increasing rate of rapes in Nepal.
The patriarchal society is often focussed on teaching women and girls how to protect themselves when confronted with sexual assault and how not to show behaviours that provoke males instead of teaching men to respect and protect women.
Males are also victims of rape and sexual abuse, but looking at the overall statistics, majority of the victims are females.
There are NGOS and INGOS working to end violence against women in Nepal, especially in the rural parts of the country, but women are seen as being sub-ordinate to the male, meant to carry out the household chores only. Such a perception is still deeply rooted in the Nepali society, and it will take generations to bring equality between males and females.
There are women victims who have spoken openly about sexual assaults, which is a bold step, but society makes them feel guilty for doing so.
Unless we change the mindset of the people and make everyone realise that rape is a heinous crime, we will not see the desired change in our country.
Ending the rape culture is a journey where each and every individual must contribute to ensure the safety of girls and women.