Muslim women facing sexual abuse by family members, fail to raise voice

Rupandehi, December 1

A 32-year-old Muslim woman of Shivagadhiya in Lumbini has been allegedly facing sexual harassment on a regular basis at the hands of her father-in-law.

Once she decided to seek police help, but before she could do anything her father-in-law warned her of dire consequences. Her father-in-law threatened to expel her from home and entire village if she reported the matter to police. Since then, she is continuously facing sexual harassment, but  she has not been able to raise her voice for justice.

Her husband is in Malaysia. Police came to know about her situation, but could not do anything as there was no complaint registered against the accused.

Najira Khatun (name changed) of Madhuwani has a similar story to share. Khatun got married to a man from Bethari, Rupandehi, three years ago. she is facing unwelcome sexual advances from her brother-in-law and father-in law. If she speaks against them, they beat her. She shared about it with her husband, but instead of getting moral and other kinds of support from him, her husband beat her up saying that charges were false and she intended to defame his father and brother.

Since then she has been living with her parents, who have not yet filed any complaint against the perpetrators.

These two women are just the examples how women suffer sexual violence within family and get no support for justice. This paints a grim picture of the society. In case of sexual or other sorts of violence in family, Muslim women rarely show courage to speak about it in public or report to police as they fear that it would defame their family and tarnish family’s prestige.

Police collect data about such violence through several means, but in the absence of written complaints, they cannot respond to such cases. Police concludes that many Muslim women become victims of sexual violence within their family but most of the cases go unreported.

UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations against Women considered as a bill of women rights to which Nepal is a state party, defines sexual relations with women against her will, physical touching, teasing, uttering abusive words and winking eye targeting her and showing vulgar pictures and photographs to her and forcing her to keep physical relationship as sexual violence against women.

Police Inspector at Area Police Office Lumbini Shankar Pokharel said only few cases of sexual violence were reported to police due to life threats from perpetrators, who are usually the family members.

District Police Office, Rupandehi, says that in the first four and half months of the current fiscal, 123 cases of violence against women were registered followed by 38 cases of human trafficking, 27 of attempted rape, nine cases of rape, two murder cases and one case of child marriage.

Assistant Sub-inspector of Police Meena Acharya said women did not report cases of sexual violence due to fear and government had failed to guarantee safety and security of women who become the victims of such violence.

According to the police record, women from the Tarai region face sexual violence more. Many VAW cases go unnoticed as many of such cases are solved within family or community, said Inspector Pokharel.

According Area Police Office, Butwal, chief Dil Bahadur Malla, victims tolerate the violence silently fearing shame.

According to him, lack of support from family is one of the major factors that discourages women from seeking police help.

Human rights activists Indira Acharya said role of family and society would be important to ensure justice and create safe environment for victims to raise their voice against injustice.

Besides monetary aspect, complex legal procedure, lack of support from family and fear of shame compel victims to keep mum and tolerate pain in isolation.