‘Collective effort needed to curb rape’

Kathmandu, December 5

Hundreds of participants at a programme held to mark the ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence’ were left speechless after 23-years old Puja Karki (name changed) shared her ordeal of how she became a multiple rape victim, firstly at the hands of her grandfather at the age of nine and later by her father since her 14th birthday, until she tuned 17.

Nine-year-old Puja was at first delighted that she could sleep with her grandfather on a cold winter night, until the grandfather started taking off his clothes and asked her to strip as well. Puja thought ‘maybe it was his way of loving her but refused to strip’. Puja was then forced to submit herself — her dress was torn and her hands and legs tied with her own clothes — and raped, her inner parts left in a pool of blood.

After her mother found out about the incident she forced the girl into hiding it. The old man raped her two more times within a few months.

Puja’s father used to live abroad at that time. A few years after he returned, he totally ignored the girl and didn’t want to hear her story.

Until one day on her 14th birthday, when the father asked Puja to remove her under garments to show proof that she was really raped by her grandfather, Puja could not do so. Her drunk father then thrashed her banging her against the wall, kicked her several times with his army boots, stripped her clothes, stripped himself, tied her with a rope and muffled her mouth and raped her. “He then raped me whenever he wished for the next two years. Only god or I know how I spent those two years,” Puja said sobbing.

More than 200 participants of the ‘Stand Against Rape’ panel discussion held today were moved by the terror of the crime as Puja shared her story in a shaky voice for over 30 minutes from behind the curtain, her appearance veiled in a bid to respect her right to privacy.

Puja, who had six years ago tried to take her life by consuming poison, now wishes to become a gynaecologist. She has been mustering strength as her father is now serving an 18-year jail sentence following court’s order and her grandfather killed himself after she was rescued by the police.

“I wish to change my pain into power,” she said, as she was coming to the end her story. “I need your help for that, as it is still not easy to live with the same persons who raped me for years.” Puja is a representative figure among six girls and women who officially complained about being raped on a daily basis to the police.

Stakeholders and activists in the panel discussion today said it was now time to speak on every aspect about violence against women.

Bandana Rana, vice-chair at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, said all government, non-governmental bodies, private companies, individuals and schools should be brought under a system which should seriously start to work to address the burning issue of violence against women.

Rana, who moderated today’s event, said, “The government should form plan and policies to secure rape victim’s dignity and their rehabilitation in society.”

Participants at the programme also criticised the police for lapses seen in investigation of rape cases.

Advocate Sonali Regmi said the police administration still had a mindset that rape victims must have bruises or their hymen should be ruptured as proof of rape. “Even police probe in many cases is not enough. If the police would only record the first information report as per the victim’s pledge, it would be easier to jail perpetrators,” she said.

Dr Sudha Sharma, a medical expert, said police must not always rely on medical report of any rape victim as proof might be lost until medical check-up.