Women and girls in Nepal, and South Asia, facing heightened risk of sexual violence: Report

A candlelight vigil organised to demand justice for Nirmala Pant, at Maitighar Mandala, on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

Kathmandu, April 22

A new report has revealed that women and girls are at a heightened risk of sexual violence in South Asian countries including Nepal with laws across the region being insufficient, inconsistent and not systematically enforced. 

The report–Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors–produced by Equality Now, an international human rights organisation, was unveiled on Wednesday. 

“There has been a sharp increase in reported cases of rape in Nepal in recent years, with 2,230 rape cases reported to the police in the fiscal year 2018-19, and 2,144 cases of rape recorded in the fiscal year 2019-20,” the report reads, “This is more than double the number of rape cases which were reported in 2014-15 (981 cases), with each year since 2014 seeing a  steady increase in the number of reported cases.”

“Even the  latest figures are likely to be lower than the true number,  as data from the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey demonstrates that 7 per cent of all women and girls aged 15-49  across the country have reported facing sexual violence in  their lifetime.” 

Sexual violence has received more attention from the public and policymakers in Nepal in recent times, with widespread protests overtaking the country in 2018 after the rape and murder of 13-year-old  Nirmala Pant, the report says. “Despite the growing awareness of the issue, sufficient attention has not yet been given to the  intersectional forms of discrimination faced by survivors  of sexual violence from communities marginalised based on caste, ethnicity or religion, including Dalits, Terai,  Madhesi and Muslim communities in Nepal.”

Though there is a lack of caste-disaggregated data on rape, reports from independent organisations show that the scale of violence against Dalit women and girls remains significantly high in  Nepal, the report states.

The study has found several impediments in access to justice. 

The Equality Now has called on the South Asian governments to take urgent action to address sexual violence, improve access to justice for survivors, and end impunity for perpetrators.

It has also said the countries in South Asia need to take comprehensive action to holistically address sexual violence faced by women and girls. 

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