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    Sexual violence victims from Muslim community lack safe atmosphere to break the silence


    Neeru Gautam, Rupandehi.  A 32-year-old Muslim woman of Shivagadhiya in Lumbini has been allegedly facing sexual harassment on a regular basis at the hand of her father-in-law.

    Once she decided to seek police help after finding that she was in no position of further resisting the sexual abuse by one of the members of the family, she reached the local police beat. But she had to move back following the threat of consequences from her ‘perpetrator’.

    Her father-in-law threatened to expel her from home and entire village if she reported the matter before the police. Since then, she faces more exploitation and abuse, but is totally helpless to fight for justice.

    Her husband is in Malaysia. Police came to know about her situation; but could not prosecute a case against the alleged in the absence of a complaint against him in writing.

    Najira Khatun of Madhuwani has a similar story to share. Khatun tied her knot with a man from Bethari, Rupandehi three years back. Her brother-in-law and father-in law would roam around her seeking chances to use her for sexual advantage.

    They used to beat her when fought against them. She shared about it with her husband, too, but instead of getting moral and other kinds of support and cooperation from him, the husband started giving her physical torture citing that charges were false and she intended to defame his father and brother.

    Since then she has been living with her parents who still expect to ‘rebuild’ her home and do not entertain the idea of filing a sexual abuse complaint against the perpetrators.

    These two women are just the examples how women suffer sexual violence within the home and get no support for justice. This paints a grim picture of the society. In case of sexual or other sorts of violence at home, Muslim women rarely take courage to speak about it in public or report to the police as they fear that it would defame their family and tarnish the family’s prestige.

    Police collect data about such violence through several means, but in absence of a written complaint, they cannot respond to such cases. The conclusion of the police is that such cases are innumerable in the Muslim society.

    The UN Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discriminations against Women (CEDAW), considered as a ‘bill of women rights’ to which Nepal is a state party, defines sexual relations with women against her will, physical touching, teasing, pronunciation of abuse words and winking of eye targeting her and showing of vulgar pictures and photographs to her and forcing her to keep a physical relationship as sexual violence against women.

    But a safe environment is yet to be created for the Terai/Madhes Muslim community women to break the silence.
    Area Police Office Lumbini’s Police Inspector Shankar Pokharel said only a few number of women violence are reported to the police due to threats and warnings from perpetrators, usually the family members.

    The District Police Office, Rupandehi says that in the four and half months of the current fiscal, it received 123 cases related to violence against women which are followed by 38 cases about human trafficking, 27 of attempted rape; nine are about rape, two about murder and one is related to child marriage.

    Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Meena Acharya asserted that a safe atmosphere is yet to be created for women to report the VAW cases to the police without any fear of bad consequences in the days ahead and it is the duty of all to guarantee that justice would not be denied for victims.

    According to the police knowledge, southern plain of the district is most vulnerable to violence against women. Many VAW cases including of serious nature go unnoticed by the police due the social trend of settling the cases even relating to rape within the community, Police Inspector Pokharel said.

    In view of Area Police Office, Butwal’s chief Dil Bahadur Malla, victims tolerate the violence silently due to fear of being ignored by the family and society.

    According to him, non cooperation from the family is one of the major factors discouraging women to seek police help following the violence against them. They stop getting family support once the case is registered 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 activists Indira Acharya said 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-cooperative role in such causes.

    Besides, monetary aspect, tardy justice execution process, and uncertainty of family and social protection and social rehabilitation force victims to keep mum and tolerate the pains in isolation. RSS

    photo: google