Home National Social stigma related to sexual violence still rampant in society

Social stigma related to sexual violence still rampant in society

Women hold placards during a demonstration against violence against women organised by Women's Room Reloaded in Maitighar, Kathmandu on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Photo: Skanda Gautam

Kathmandu, November 17, 2016: A 20-year old lady from Nuwakot doesn’t want to go home because of the social  stigma attached to sexual violence.

“I can’t live in a society where I am constantly tortured psychologically and intimidated for exposing the act of sexual violence which spoiled my life,” she said.

Her cousin sister’s father-in-law who is in his mid 50s had attempted to rape her on October 26, 2015 when she was alone at home. The same day, she revealed the case to her parents who later reported it to the nearby police office.

The next day, they reported at the District Police Office but the office refused to register the complaint.

“The perpetrator belonged to a rich family with strong political support therefore they tried to settle the case by providing cash, which I refused,” she said, adding, “I decided to go to court for justice.

At first, my family and neighbours supported me, but later they turned against me.” She said when the district court gave a clean chit to the perpetrator because of his power and money and political protection, even her family regretted revealing the case.

“Instead of getting justice from the court, I was humiliated. I now know that the social stigma related to the case will last forever,” she added.

Now she wants to economically empowered by establishing a small tailoring house far from her hometown where she can spend the rest of her life.

This is just a representative case of many young girls and women in Nepal who are wounded physically and mentally due to sexual violence and the social stigma with lifelong effects.

Parbati Kumari Chaudhary, a 50-year old woman who was raped repeatedly by Nepali Army officers while she was in custody for three months in Bramhajiyaa Barracks from May 2004 had to lose her only daughter due to social stigma.

“When my daughter’s husband and her family came to know that I was repeatedly raped by Nepali Army officials in custody on the allegation of being a Maoist combatant, they started torturing my daughter, a post-graduate in Science.

She could not tolerate it and committed suicide by setting herself on fire,” she said.

She informed that she had a five-year old granddaughter from her daughter but they are not allowing her to talk to that young child, who is unaware of sexual violence and the stigma attached to it.

Bandana Rana, member of CEDAW committee said that there is social stigma at various stages from individual level to state policy level, which is discouraging the victims of sexual violence to expose the perpetrator and get justice with a justifiable rehabilitation package.

DIG Ram Kumar Khanal at Women and Children Service Directorate of Nepal Police headquarters said that majority of victims of sexual violence are between 11 and 16 years while the perpetrators are aged between 19 and 35 years.

He said, “When the victim of sexual violence faces intolerable stigma, they suffer from depression resulting into suicide in many cases.”

Dr Kiran Rupakhetee, program director, National Planning Commission Secretariat said, “Stigma is one of the most prevalent and persistent obstacles hindering the transformation of any mental health system and of attitudes in the community,” adding, “Stigma leads to low self-esteem, a sense of being misunderstood, hopelessness, shame and guilt.”

“Stigma also deters people from socialising with others,” said Dr Rupakhetee, who was earlier at the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

He further said that post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression, crippling anxiety and deep shame can all be suffered by survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Photo by Skanda Gautam