She thought the culprits would be caught when the war ended, and that they would finally be taken to court when the Maoists were elected to power in 2008. She waited throughout the 11 years of political transition for truth, justice and compensation.
“I get very anxious about my past because I am not guilty. I have neither been compensated, nor have those who did it to me been caught,” says Chaudhari, her eyes burning with fury.
Her husband was away when 25 soldiers drove up in a van, entered her home and beat her up. “Then they took turns to rape me,” she recalls. “I am lucky to be alive.”
She battled the ensuing trauma on her own, adjusting to ostracisation by her community which got worse when she got pregnant.
“I have spent a lot of money on my treatment, I could do with a little help, the government should tell me once and for all if I will get compensation or not, since others have,” she says.
Nepal has come a long way after the war ended in 2006. The monarchy was abolished, there were two elections to Constituent Assemblies that framed a federal secular constitution. Under the peace process the Maoist guerrillas were demobilised, some of them were integrated into the Nepal Army. For many the political transition is over, but not for war survivors like Chaudhari here in the plains of western Nepal which saw massive human rights violations by both sides.
Wartime rape victims are off the government radar, abandoned by their husbands, ostracised by their families and society. The state, which is made up of the warring sides, has excluded rape in the interim relief process and in transitional justice.
There is no accurate data on wartime rape because many victims are still afraid of social stigma. There is a lack of social protection, and many are poor. The statute of limitation, that has now been extended to six months, has been another hindrance.
Advocacy Forum-Nepal alone has documented and worked with at least 250 cases of conflict rape. Around 300 cases have been registered at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), where Madhavi Bhatta says: “First the registered rape cases need to be established through investigation and later we will recommend them for reparation.”
When asked about how long that will take, she replied, “The process will definitely take years since the investigations have only just started.”
Last August, the UN’s human rights committee for the first time intervened in the wartime rape case of Purna Maya and urged Nepal to investigate it. Although it was a landmark decision, there has been no response from the government side.
Om Prakash Sen of Advocacy Forum-Nepal says the government has always ignored the demand for justice and reparations from wartime rape victims.
Jhapad Bohora a Maoist MP from Karnali Province told Nepali Times creating jobs for the victims of sexual violence will be a top priority of the provincial government.
“Apart from jobs we will also provide free education to their children,” says Bohora, who has been appointed finance minister for a province which has the highest number of disappeared people and victims of wartime rape.
Centre for Investigative Journalism