97TH INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Very few records of sexual abuse during war

Kathmandu, March 7:

Even as the country celebrates the 97th International Women’s Day tomorrow, neither the government nor the Maoists have any record of cases of sexual abuses that took place during the insurgency. So much so, neither of them has developed any mechanism till now to track down the number, characters, nature and seriousness of such cases though much has been talked about human rights violations and ending impunity.

Only 54 cases of rape involving security forces, vigilantes, unknown groups and the Maoists in 30 districts are documented by the Advocacy Forum-Nepal. However, only seven of the rape cases involving security forces have been taken to the courts, according to the forum. Kopila Adhikary, the forum’s programme coordinator, said: “In some cases the Maoists forced women into sexual exploitation on the strength of their arms. Though cases of sexual exploitation are recorded, because of the nature of violence, social stigma attached to victims and lack of security, family members do not want to go ahead with the case or come up with it openly.”

We are documenting the past rights violations so that victims are recognised and if the government plans to address their cases, they would get justice, Adhikary told this daily.

No cases have been filed against the Maoists because the victims do not allow it, Adhikary said. Sangeeta R Thapa, the UNIFEM programme coordinator, said cases of sexual abuses are not brought in the open because most of the time “we lack evidence and the victims do not open up easily.”

“A massive awareness drive is needed to end impunity — to disseminate information that the victims of sexual violations are not guilty,” she said. State Minister for Women, Children and Social Welfare, Urmila Aryal said the government is working to set up a network to record cases of sexual abuses during the conflict by coordinating with the VDCs and DDCs.

However, Jaya Puri Gharti, a Maoist MP said there weren’t cases of sexual exploitation in Maoist camps during the conflict. “We had taken all precautions to avoid such things,” she said. Even after the April mass movement, three cases of rape involving the security forces and one involving the Maoists have been recorded.

In Khanar VDC, Sunsari, a Maoist raped an eight-year-old girl. Though the Maoist cadre confessed to his crime, the girl’s family did not want to go ahead with the case.