Madhesi Muslims ‘do not report sexual crimes by male in-laws’

- Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Rupandehi

Dec 2, 2018-

Married women from the Muslim community in Madhes region do not report sexual abuse crimes, perpetrated by males from their in-laws, fearing further physical violence, according to a district police officer.

Police Inspector Shankar Pokharel, from Lumbini Area Office, says only a few women report sexual abuse and violence within family because of threats by the perpetrators of the crime.

A 32-year-old woman from Shivagadhiya, Lumbini, who regularly suffers sexual abuse by her father-in-law in the absence of her husband, a migrant worker in Malaysia, decided to complain to the police, but panicked when he threaten her of dire consequences.

Her father-in-law threatened to expel her from home and entire village if she reported the crime to the police. Since then, she faces suffers more sexual. She is helpless and fears to fight for justice.

Local police are also helpless despite knowing her plight. They say cannot press charges against her father-in-law when there is no formal complaint.

Another Muslim woman, Najira Khatun, a resident of Madhuwani, has a similar story of sexual abuse.

Najira married a man from Bethari, Rupandehi three years ago. Her husband’s brother and father lasciviously hovered around her, seeking chance to pounce on her. They thrashed her when she physically resisted them. Worse, when she complained to her husband, instead of supporting her and confronting his father and brother, he said she wanted to defame them and her charges were false.

Unable to bear the trauma, she fled from her husband’s home and returned to her parents’ home. Her hopes for help shattered here too. Her naïve parents expected her to return to her husband and not to think about filing a sexual abuse complaint against her in-laws.

The tragic story of these two women shows how women who suffer sexual violence in their in-laws homes get no support to seek justice. Such stories reiterate the need for institutional support to seek justice for abused women’s rights.

In case of sexual or other kinds violence at home, Muslim women rarely have the courage either to complain to the police or speak about it in public as they fear that it would defame their family and tarnish the family’s prestige.

Police collect data about such violence through several means. However, in the absence of a written complaint, they cannot intervene in such cases.

The District Police Office in Rupandehi says in the four and a half month of the current fiscal year, it received 123 complaints of violence against women (VAW), followed by 38 on human trafficking, 27 of attempted rape, nine of rapes, two of murder and one of child marriage.

Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Meena Acharya said a safe atmosphere is yet to be created for women to report VAW cases to the police without any fear of dire consequences. Victims should not be denied justice; this is the duty of all concerned.

According to the police, the southern plain of the district is most vulnerable to VAW.

Police Inspector Pokharel said, “Many VAW crimes, including those of serious nature, miss police scrutiny due the trend of settling cases, including those of rape within the community.”

Butwal Area Police Office Chief Dil Bahadur Malla says victims tolerate the violence silently due to the fear of family and society boycotting them.

According to him, non-cooperation from the family is one of the major reasons that discourage women from seeking police help. The family stops supporting such abused women once they file  a case with the police. Besides, victim blaming still persists in the society and these all factors are behind the killing the level of confidence among victims.

Human rights activist Indira Acharya says the role of family and society is vital to ensure justice and create a safe social atmosphere for the victims, but the situation is just the opposite in the society. The family plays the non-co-operative role in such crimes.

Besides, monetary aspect, tardy justice execution process, and uncertainty of family and social protection and social rehabilitation compel victims to keep quiet and tolerate the abuses.

The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW) defines sexual relations with woman without her consent, physical touching, teasing, abusive language and winking of eye targeting her and showing her vulgar photographs, and compelling for physical relationship, as sexual violence against women.

This UN body’s definition of sexual violence against women is considered as a ‘Bill of women rights’. Nepal is a state party to CEDAW.

Published: 02-12-2018 07:17

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