Advocates for women were excited late in 2020 when they heard that changes were coming to Nepal’s rape law, which has long been criticized as ineffective. For example, youth activists who had met with the attorney general and other lawmakers were energized and excited by the process, as reported on my podcast, Nepal Now.
But when the ordinance containing the revisions was signed by the president, not all of the rumoured improvements were there. Left out was removal of the statute of limitations that says a rape charge must be filed within one year and broadening of the scope of victims of rape to include men, boys and persons of other genders.
So what happened? My reading and discussion afterwards led me to believe that entrenched women’s groups had been defending their turf: they didn’t want the focus to turn from women as the only possible victims of rape, and risk losing attention and resources for their work. But as Anita Thapalia from the Legal Aid and Consultancy Centre revealed, it was more complex than that: “If they were not interested then why did they call us. Maybe there was later on some kind of political pressure,” she told Nepal Now.
Despite that, Thapalia believes that the revised law is an improvement. The challenge now, as always, will be to ensure that the changes are implemented.