Most victims choose not to pursue cases because they do not know how to work the court system and do not have the resources to fight it out. Figures show that only 60% of rape cases are closed, and only about a quarter of the victims get a favourable verdict.
Even though a 2015 amendment broadened the definition of rape to include non-penile penetration, it is still rare for a court to convict such offenders. A Kathmandu School of Law report states that Nepal’s judiciary is ‘obsessively concerned with looking into elements such as penetration, use of force and completion of sexual intercourse by ejaculation’ as primary grounds for conviction. In absence of such evidence, the courts tend to shift the charge of ‘rape’ to ‘attempted rape’.
Advocate Sushma Gautam says the situation is more favourable today as the Supreme Court has made landmark decisions based on the new laws, but she says not everyone is updated about the new laws. “Even some judges and lawyers are ignorant of what constitutes rape and operate on their traditional mindset which considers only penile penetration to be rape,” she explains.
#Theytoo, Sewa Bhattarai
Republic of rape, Editorial
Activists worry that the system favours the perpetrator rather than the victim. The severity of the punishment is based on the age of the victim, with 16 years of imprisonment if the victim is aged below 10, and only 5-7 years if she is above 20, and there is also extra punishment if the victim is more than six months pregnant, or is disabled.
“These provisions are unfair because they assume that an adult female in good health cannot be raped, which is not the case,” says Binita Pandey, a lawyer at Women’s Rehabilitation Center, (WOREC) Nepal. In the case of adult women, investigation often veers towards what the woman was wearing, why she was out at a particular time, and attempts to blame the victim for provocative behaviour.
It is even more difficult for male victims: the law regarding paedophilia address male children, but rape laws specifically mention only ‘women’ as rape victims, leaving out men and transgender persons. Nepal’s laws are still based on patriarchal notions that a woman’s sexuality is the property of her male partner and not herself.
Even as international standards like CEDAW mention ‘women’s sexual autonomy and consent’ in laws regarding rape, Nepal’s laws are still concerned about chastity, depriving many male and female victims of justice.
“The problems with our Criminal Justice System is that the government is not really focused on implementing it,” says advocate Indu Tuladhar. “Our laws have improved, but there are still many loopholes. Often, the government does not actually implement high sounding provisions, which means that we must question its intention. Does it really want to deliver justice, or is it just creating laws that look good?”
Justice delayed and denied, Sewa Bhattarai
Crime and Politics, Namrata Sharma