Roots of evil

Jun 17, 2013-

On Saturday, a rape victim from Parsa district alleged mistreatment at the hands of a police officer at the Narayani Zonal Police Office where she had gone to file a complaint. This was not a complaint about the rape, which had already been established by a doctor, but of a subsequent abduction. Friends of Binod Sah and Bideshi Mahato, the accused duo, forcefully took away the victim after she refused to withdraw the case against the perpetrators. She was offered Rs 200,000 in cash and adding insult to injury, offered marriage with Mahato. When describing her abduction at the Narayani Police Office, she alleged that a female police officer accused her of lying, slapped her across the face and thrashed her with a stick. Her account is corroborated by her mother and even DSP Basudev Khatiwada, in whose office the incident took place, has admitted to “a minor push and pull.”  

This case exemplifies the harrowing ordeal that so many rape victims still undergo in Nepal. First is the rape itself, the grossest violation of a woman’s body, her rights and her liberty. Then comes the aftermath of social ostracisation and victim shaming. If a woman decides to stand up and file a complaint, she is often harassed and threatened by friends and family of the perpetrators. Even the police, overtly concerned with maintaining social harmony instead of upholding the law, seek to force the victim to come to an ‘agreement’ with offers of marriage and large sums of money. While most of these characteristics align with the case from Parsa, one detail that stands out is that the police officer accused of beating the victim is a woman. One would expect that as a woman herself, this police officer could sympathise with the plight of the victim. Instead, she is alleged to have taken the side of the rapists, berating and beating the victim. Her actions make clear that the patriarchal mindset is not limited to men; it is deeply ingrained in all members of society.

Patriarchy is not something that can be rooted out quickly or easily. It requires persistent questioning of the status quo and efforts at all levels of society, from the central government down to the grassroots. Providing power and agency to women, however, can considerably weaken it. To this end, the government must uphold a 33 percent, if not 50, quotas for women in all decision-making bodies. In the immediate, the government would do well to provide sensitivity training to police officers, both male and female, on how to interact with victims of rape and gender-based violence, who should never be berated for forgetting particulars or refusing to go over their ordeals in detail. This small step would go some ways in providing a semblance of support to women who have taken the daring step of speaking out against rapists.

Published: 18-06-2013 09:03

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