Women rights activists have said that harmful practices against women and society's attitude to view women as objects were at the root of sexual violence against women.

Addressing a talk programme organised here by Forum for Women, Law and Development on "Sexual violence and justice" Country Director of International Alert Rabina Shrestha said harmful social and cultural practices in society were the main reason behind the current spike in cases of sexual violence against women and children. She said 15,000 cases of gender violence were reported in Nepal last year, of which 11,000 were incidents of domestic violence.

She said incidents of women being victims of sexual violence by their intimate partners were also increasing.

FWLD Executive Director Sabin Shrestha said that one year statute of limitation was the main hurdle in prosecuting cases against rapists. He said there was a case where a fiveyear-old visually impaired child, who was staying at an orphanage in Kathmandu, was raped but by the time her incident came to light, the 35 days statute of limitation had already elapsed.

He said the societal attitude of viewing the sexual violence case as infringement of women's honour was wrong because such perception led to a situation where victims' own family members hate them after sexual violence incidents. He said that court ruling of providing compensation to sexual violence victims largely remained unimplemented.

Legal Officer of FWLD Meera Dhungana said on an average, seven women and children were being sexually assaulted everyday in Nepal and in 90 per cent of sexual violence cases, the perpetrators were either the relatives or acquaintances of the victims. She said last year, in 740 cases, the accused were acquitted by the high courts. Dhungana said the government authorities need to introspect as to why the government was not being able to secure convictions in most of the sexual violence cases.

DIG Rajesh Lal Karna said the there was dreadful situation of violence against women in the county. He said lack of women police officers in Nepal Police was also a hindrance in the investigation of sexual violence cases.

Out of 80,000 Nepal Police personnel, there are only 58 women police inspectors. Karna said at least one female police inspector should be deployed in all 77 districts.

He said strong deterrence against sexual violence and fair investigation into the cases of sexual violence could alone help the country deal with the problems of sexual violence effectively. He also said lawmakers had made provision of statute of limitation in rape case because they realised that it would be difficult for detectives to collect evidence in rape cases after certain time period.

Secretary at the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen Yam Kumari Khatiwada said her ministry was adopting all appropriate measures to control sexual violence. Stating that women empowerment could also help reduce the incidents of sexual violence, Khatiwada said the government was also working to make women economically self- reliant. He said in recent years, women's development indicators such as women's participation in politics, share in family property, their participation in labour forces were positive.

Minister of Women, Children and Senior Citizen Juli Kumari Mahato said she was worried about the increasing number of cases of sexual violence against children. She said the government and non-governmental organisations needed to join hands to control cases of sexual violence.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 06, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.