UN, Australia, EU nations concerned

Kathmandu, October 4

The United Nations, Australia and five European countries have expressed concern about the reported impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence and violence against women in Nepal and have urged the government to ensure ‘access to justice for victims, stand for the victims’ rights and send a zero-tolerance message to combat gender-based violence’.

Their call comes after Krishna Bahadur Mahara stepped down as the House of Representatives speaker after facing allegations of raping Roshani Shahi, a nurse at the Parliament Secretariat.

Without referring to the scandal surrounding Mahara, the UN and Nepal-based embassies of Australia, Finland, France, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom today said, “While certain cases may still be under investigation, we remind the government about its obligations under the international law to ensure access to justice for victims, stand for the victims’ rights and send a zero-tolerance message to combat gender-based violence.”

International standards and Nepal’s obligations under international law, as indicated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, require the government to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into allegations, says a joint statement issued by the UN and six countries.

Recommendation No 35 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women provides guidance to states concerning their due diligence obligations to investigate all crimes, including that of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls, and to sentence perpetrators, provide reparations to victims and prevent further violence by addressing the causes and impacts of all forms of violence against women.

Investigation into sexual violence, however, should be victim-centric, adds the statement. “Such an approach places the human rights, interests and needs of the victims at the centre of any and all actions taken in relation to the allegations, not only in investigations, but also by providing victim assistance and protection, with the principles of ‘do no harm,’ confidentiality, safety and non-discrimination,” adds the statement. This is the first statement from the international community since Shahi accused Mahara of physically assaulting and raping her.