Nepal's rape victims shatter taboos to seek justice

Mon Jan 19, 2015 7:09pm EST
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By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Pooja Bohara heard that the two men who had dragged her into a toilet and raped her had been released from prison nine months ago, the Nepali teenager went into shock.

The men, who had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in March 2013, were acquitted by an appeals court last April due to a lack of evidence.

But despite being blamed and stigmatized by some in her community in western Nepal after reporting the rape, and forced to seek refuge in the capital, the 17-year-old says she is not giving up her fight for justice.

"Society and some family members blame me. My uncle even suggested that I should be placed in a heap of straw and burnt to death, but my father was for justice," said Bohara, sitting in a rehabilitation center in Kathmandu.

"It is not our fault that we are raped. Victims should come out and tell their story to the courts and seek justice."

Growing awareness in Nepal of crimes against women has helped an increasing number of victims like Bohara to challenge a culture that often blames or shuns them into silence, say police and activists.

Reports of violence against women - including rape, domestic violence and molestation - soared to 7,847 for the year ending mid-July 2014, from 2,477 a year earlier, according to police figures.

"Women are now more aware of their rights than before and are courageously coming out and reporting crimes against them, including sexual violence, to police," said Mingmar Lama, chief of a police unit that monitors violence against women.   Continued...

Pooja Bohara, a rape victim, poses for a picture inside her room at the Raksha Nepal rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu January 16, 2015.     REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar