Crime doesn’t expireThere is an outright necessity to craft progressive laws to ensure justice for survivors.
The mainstream and social media are currently ablaze concerning the heart-wrenching story of a young beauty pageant aspirant. Unable to bear the ordeal of living with the pain and scars of years of sexual abuse, the survivor finally mustered up the courage to reveal her story to the world, hoping that her abusers would be brought to the dock. Despite an outpouring of support for the survivor, a formidable obstacle lies within our legal system that prevents numerous survivors of sexual abuse from filing a petition against the perpetrators.
According to data provided by the Nepal Police, 15,459 cases of violence against women and children were reported across the country in the eight months to March 2022. That averages to approximately 64 daily. But the restrictive nature of the statute of limitations sets the maximum time to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offence, whether civil or criminal, and allows numerous cases to be discarded based on this technical oversight. Therefore, as per the current law, a plaintiff, despite fighting fears of public exposure and overcoming mental trauma, must file a complaint about rape within a year of the incident. It constitutes nothing less than a mockery of the entire Nepali justice system.
After numerous revisions over the years, the time has come for lawmakers to carefully study the issue once again to overhaul the existing ill-thought-out provisions within the statute, and bring in meaningful provisions that will guarantee safeguards for survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Perpetrators should have no other recourse than to promptly face the full wrath of the law. Nepal lacks an environment in which issues related to rape and sexual violence is handled. There is a pervading nature of institutional misogynism still actively prevalent in all walks of life, and therefore, the institutions designed to check violence against women need a complete revamp.
Comprehensive training and awareness need to be constantly provided to understand the gravity of the matter. And safeguards need to be carefully designed to prevent survivors from spiralling into depressive bouts. There should be a safe environment to encourage survivors to narrate their ordeal in their own time without fear of being ridiculed or made to feel embarrassed or remorseful. Therefore, there is an outright necessity to craft well-thought-out laws to ensure justice for the survivors.
The simmering rage that has built momentum over the past few days shouldn’t be derided as just another passing phase—the police, for the first time, have initiated an investigation without a formal complaint. And with scores of other survivors’ stories yet to be revealed, the insurmountable task before us needs careful supervision. If we as a society seek to be seen as one that respects and values people’s self-worth, there can be no room for perpetrators of sexual violence to carry on unaccounted for. It is time we put an end to this abomination.