Media reports focused on the need to revise rape laws to ensure access to justice but the government must also investigate the arrest, detention and rape by soldiers during the Maoist insurgency
On 21 May the UN Human Rights Committee published a decision about a Nepali woman who was abducted by Nepali soldiers during the Maoist insurgency (1996-2006), taken to army barracks, tortured, raped and forced to work for the soldiers. Then 14 years old, the girl was released six weeks later after her family intervened.
Media reports on 22 May (in English) duly noted one part of the committee’s decision (highlighted in a press release) that the Government of Nepal should update its rape laws to be consistent with international norms. But they omitted other aspects in the full decision. These include that the government must:
- Conduct a thorough and effective investigation into the facts surrounding the arrest, detention and rape of the woman (known as Fulmati Nyaya) and the treatment she suffered in detention
- Prosecute, try and punish those responsible
- Provide Nyaya with detailed information about the results of the investigation
- Ensure that any necessary psychological rehabilitation and medical treatment is provided to the woman, free of charge; and
- Provide effective reparation, adequate compensation and appropriate measures of satisfaction to the author for the violations suffered, including arranging an official apology in a private ceremony .
Activists and experts interviewed were pessimistic that the government would respond to the decision within six months, as directed by the committee, but I believe it’s important that the full extent of this decision be publicised, beyond the narrow focus of the media reports.
In terms of rape laws, the committee’s decision says that Nepali legislation should:
- Adapt the definition of rape and other forms of sexual violence in accordance with international standards
- Guarantee that cases of rape, other forms of sexual violence and torture give rise to a prompt, impartial and effective investigation
- Allow for criminal prosecution of those responsible for such crimes
- Remove obstacles that hinder the filing of complaints and effective access to justice and compensation for victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls in the context of the Nepali armed conflict, as forms of torture, including a significant increase of the statute of limitations commensurate with the gravity of such crimes.
There is more to the committee’s decision, and I urge you to read it yourself.