Upper house ratifies changes to rape laws to the chagrin of some membersContrary to demands for scrapping the statute of limitations on rape, the new amendments only increase the time allowed to report rape cases.
The National Assembly on Thursday ratified new amendments to the laws related to sexual violence, including the statute of limitations on rape.
Contrary to demands from all quarters of society to scrap the statute of limitations, the new amendments have instead increased the time limit for reporting rape cases by up to three years.
“All of us who stood there in the National Assembly and presented our stance on the statute of limitations want to remove it completely but instead, we passed a law today that only increased the time limit,” Bimala Rai Paudyal, a member of the National Assembly, said. “It is with deep regret that we had to accept the new amendments.”
Following the ratification, adults who are subjected to rape will now be able to file a lawsuit within two years of the incident.
Earlier, a plaintiff could file a complaint only within a year from the date of the incident.
In the case of minors, a rape case can now be filed within three years of the victim turning 18.
People with disabilities and senior citizens will be able to bring forth a complaint within three years of the incident.
The bill to amend rape laws also states that the perpetrator will have to pay monetary fines to the victim alongside serving a jail time. The younger the victim, the more amount the guilty has to pay.
If the girl is below the age of fourteen, the perpetrator will be fined Rs600,000.
If the girl is between fourteen and eighteen, the perpetrator will be fined Rs400,000 and for women above the age of eighteen, the perpetrator will be fined Rs200,000.
In 2012, the statute of limitations on rape was extended from 35 days to 180 days.
In the Muluki Criminal Code 2017, which came into force in August 2018, the statute of limitations on rape was increased to one year.
Legal experts say these time limits for seeking legal remedy for crimes as abominable as rape are restrictive, unconstitutional and go against the principles of fundamental human rights.
Calls to amend laws on sexual violence gained momentum after a former child actor and model posted a series of Tiktok videos in May this year, describing repeated incidents of sexual abuse and rape she allegedly suffered at the hands of multiple people when she was as young as 16. In the videos, she decried the statute of limitations as a barrier for her to access justice.
The woman’s statements triggered widespread outcry across social media and street protests across the country. The protestors demanded justice for the alleged survivor and that the statute of limitations on rape cases be scrapped.
Earlier in May, a week after the woman’s statements, nine members of the upper house filed a resolution motion demanding the total removal of the statute of limitations on child rape cases. They also demanded a review of the time limit for legal action in cases where the victims of rape are not children.
The resolution motion was approved by the National Assembly in early June.
Despite the approval of the resolution motion, the amendment to the laws that increased the statute of limitations by only a couple of years, lawyers have said, is “a clear mockery” of the human rights commitments Nepal has made in international forums.
Lawmakers debating the new amendments in the National Assembly raised questions about the obligations of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and the House of Representatives to heed the resolution motion approved by the lawmakers.
Paudyal, the National Assembly member, said the House of Representatives “clearly disregarded” the resolution motion passed by the National Assembly and set time limits on filing cases.
“On the other hand, the government brought the bill when just a day remained for the expiry of [rape-related] ordinance. They said, if the bill isn’t approved today, it would create a legal vacuum,” Paudyal said. “They left us in a huge moral dilemma. The other provisions of the amendment are necessary but the statute of limitations is completely at odds with what we all believed. It was with heavy hearts that we approved the bill today.”