The Kanchanpur rape case should go down in history books as a landmark that brought long awaited changes to Nepal’s justice system, how it is implemented and delivered, and how rape is reported in the media.
In early 1900s when women all over the world were waking up and rising up against the patriarchy and were demanding their right to vote, in Britain some women started to train in jiu-jitsu.
It came in handy while dealing with male vigilantes who believed women should be harassed or beaten to submission, and the police who did the same to protesting women. The Women’s Social and Political Party (suffragettes) was formed in 1903, and two decades later, finally women over 21 won the right to vote.
See also: Republic of rape
We are in 2018 now, and it is not just women fighting for women, but men are also joining the marches for justice. Rapes do not only happen to women. And in a land where we have to fight to even register a case, the chances of abuse of an irreversible penalty like capital punishment is high.
Let us demand fast track courts, a well-funded and well-trained prosecution arm of police, safe houses for women, compensation for victims, and (not or) harsh punishment for the perpetrator. Let us also call for counselling services for rape survivors, and efforts to remove stigma of rape. There should also be stricter punishment for those who obstruct justice regardless of their political clout or position in the police or bureaucracy. Here is what each sector can do:
Major opposition party
It is shameful to politicise the rape of a minor on the street to try to get some airtime and harass the government. Each party has served in government when there were rape cases. You did very little then, so if you really want to be in the news, then fight it out in Parliament to which you were elected. If you want to join the protests in the streets, leave your political baggage and flags behind. Fight for the right as a citizen, not as a party hack.
Ruling government party
A compensation of Rs1 million is not what the victim is looking for. Ask yourself: is that your price tag on the life of a child? Where can they go to heal? What is the Ministry of Women and Child Development really doing? What is the Home Ministry doing in Kanchanpur? If you believe the opposition party is fanning the flames, why weren’t you quick off the mark to address the problem? Why did you let it drag on to the point where it could be politicised?
Examine which activist group or government agency you fund and ask for a statement of solidarity from each of them for better implementation and delivery of justice and stricter and swifter laws. Your mandate doesn’t need to explicitly state that you will be an ally of the rape victims and survivors. It is assumed.
Rapes do not only happen to Nepali women, men are also raped. You don’t need to have a mother, sister, daughter, aunt to empathise with the cause. If someone needs to be shot dead to demand justice, then we really have no hope of expecting swift and stern action against perpetrators of other crimes as well. If you do not like ‘dollar wallas’ then create a rupee funded organisation that will fight for the cause. The culture needs to stop objectifying women, and releasing block-blusters in which women have no role except to play a love interest of the ‘villain’ or ‘hero’, with no will, no voice, no part at all in a plot in which men are rewarded with love and marriage for stalking a woman. Fight for women not because you think they (we) are weak, but because we want a just society. We want a society that will take responsibility for safety for everyone at all hours.
Cover this as a trend, not an event to be forgotten. Keep following up.
Protestors and activists
Women in Britain 100 years ago were beaten, force-fed when they went on hunger strikes, and it took them almost 25 years to get equal voting rights. They passed the baton to a new generation of leaders, and kept fighting. In Nepal, it may take more petticoat protests, but the next generation of leaders must be groomed. Civilisation always progresses, but in the meantime, Nepali women may also need to learn martial arts to protect themselves.