Silence is acceptance
Dec 26, 2012-
The fact that Nepal is a male-dominated society where patriarchy thrives is no secret. Some attempts have been made to bring changes to this reality but if one examines the male dominance that is victimising women, the results are preposterous. The latest victim is Sita Rai (name changed), a migrant worker, who was on her way home from Saudi Arabia last month. Rai was travelling under someone else’s passport at Tribhuvan International Airport where three immigration officials and a police constable took her in for interrogation. She was not only robbed by the immigration officials and the policeman of her hard-earned savings but also allegedly raped by the constable, Parshuram Basnet, who invited her to a hotel. The constable has since admitted to his crime. It is crucial that the police now carry out its own independent investigation on the involvement of the policeman as the Home Ministry has already suspended the immigration officials.
Rai’s case is not an isolated incident. Back in 2009, in another grotesque episode, police officer Suntali Dhami was gang-raped by three fellow policemen in Acham. The culprits were given mere three to six-year sentences. There is every chance that there will be those who will push for similarly watered-down sentences in Rai’s case too.
What’s particularly troubling about Rai’s case, and most other cases of reported rape in the country, is the distinct lack of a woman’s perspective in gauging these cases of “alleged” rape. Women’s rights workers and NGOs, which number in the hundreds, are mum on the issue exactly when a loud and coherent voice is needed most to push an insensitive government into taking speedy and decisive measures against the culprits. In India, it took mass public outrage against the gang-rape of a girl on a public bus for the prime minister to condemn the rape. Nepal’s own prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, needs to realise that he will be seen as a man of conscience if he takes proactive action by speaking out against the heinous act and, in the process, delivering the message that he cares about the dignity of women and is in step with public opinion.
Incidences of rape and the muted response to them are symptomatic of a deep malaise in society where women are bypassed in decision-making, including, but not limited to, the right to be the masters of their bodies. There is an overwhelming majority of men everywhere—from politics to media, businesses to NGOs. Politics is controlled by men with oversized egos, unwilling to compromise even when the fate of 28 million people is at risk. It seems that democracy to them is: by men, for men, and of men. Six years into Nepal’s peace process, the agenda for socio-economic transformation, a vital aspect of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, has been relegated to political rhetoric. If we are to evolve into a just society, this must change, and for that to happen, every single Sita Rai has to be heard.
Published: 26-12-2012 08:37