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Deaf and Mute 16-yr Old Nepali Girl Beaten and Raped As 'Punishment'

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding rape and abuse of a 16 year-old domestic worker in Kathmandu on 18 July 2010 by her employers. Instead of rescuing the victim, police officers from Budha police station have reportedly kept her in detention twice for 24 hours without providing her with adequate medical treatment. In spite of the initial reluctance of the police, a rape case was eventually filed on 21 August and the two alleged perpetrators have been arrested. Nevertheless, strong doubts remain regarding the police's diligence in investigating the case. It is to be noted that police negligence and the lack of accountability of the police system often act as strong obstacles for rape victims seeking justice.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to the information we have received from the Women Foundation, Muna (not original name), a 16 year old domestic servant in Kathmandu, was badly beaten and raped by her employers on 18 August after being accused of theft. The victim, who has been working with her current employer since her childhood, is deaf and dumb (unable to speak).

On 17 August, her employers reportedly accused her of having stolen a piece of jewelry and brought her to Budha police station. She was kept in police custody for 24 hours, the maximum length that people can be kept in police detention before being brought before a judicial authority. Due to the lack of evidence, she was sent back to her employers' house on 18 August.

After Muna was sent back home, her employer's wife reportedly beat her up using stinging nettle. She also reportedly tore off Muna's clothes, poured kerosene on her body and continued to hit her with the nettle and with other objects. The employer's wife then locked Muna in a room with her husband for 2 hours. The husband then reportedly raped Muna who was unable to cry for help.

The alleged perpetrators then took the victim naked outside the house and told the neighbours that she was a thief.

The perpetrators then took the victim again to Budha Police Station where she was detained for another day. In spite of visible external injuries, showing that the victim had been subjected to ill-treatment and was in need of medical care, the police did not take her to the hospital and she was kept in custody without being provided with food, a proper bed or any medicine. The two alleged perpetrators were allowed to walk away unpunished.

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Women's Foundation activists who have met with the victim on 19 August have reported that the victim's arms and back were covered with serious wounds and bruises and that her eyes were so swollen that she could not open them. Women Foundation activists have brought the victim to the Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu. The doctor estimated that she may suffer from internal injuries and recommended a CT scan and other tests. The victim was then hospitalized at Stupa Hospital until 27 August.

According to the Women's Foundation, the police first refused to register the case as a rape case and it is only after pressure from the human rights defenders that a rape case was eventually registered on the 21st of August at the Budha Police Station. The police then arrested the two alleged perpetrators but according to our information no further action has been taken yet to bring them to justice. Moreover, according to the information we have received, as of 27 August, the medical report, which will prove that rape took place has not been released.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

In dealing with this case the Budha police have already shown a culpable negligence which has had an adversary effect upon the victim's situation and it is therefore likely that they will show the same carelessness in investigating the case.

First, the fact that the police rearrested Muna a second time after having released her less than 24 hours before because there was not enough evidence to justify her detention, without trying to determine whether there were more ground to justify her re-arrest is a culpable misuse of the article 24 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal which states that no one can be kept in detention for more than 24 hours without being brought before a judicial authority and amounts to arbitrary detention. Moreover, the fact that the police omitted to question the alleged perpetrators and let them walk away freely in spite of the injuries that the victim had sustained is an unacceptable act of negligence. Further, the victim's re-arrest has resulted in delaying the moment the medical examination of the victim has been conducted, therefore potentially destroying the evidence of rape and making it even more difficult for the victim to obtain justice.

Furthermore, the allegations that the police did not provide the victim with appropriate medical treatment despite of visible signs that she was injured and that they further failed to provide her with food are in contradiction with all national and international norms and standards.

The article 15-1 of the 1992 Police Act specifically quote taking 'the immediate and necessary action in case an arrested or detained person sustains an injury or falls ill' (article 15-1-h) and making 'the appropriate arrangement for ration or accommodation for persons who are arrested or detained' (article 15-1-i) as being an integral part of the duties of a police officer.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

The criminal justice system in Nepal requires a deep transformation before being able to handle properly cases of sexual violence, as was acknowledged by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which expressed its concern in its 2010 report that 'legislative weaknesses and inadequate policing continue to make prosecutions for domestic and sexual violence extremely difficult'.

Examples of this 'inadequate policing' notably include police's refusal to provide protection to a victim of gender-based violence, police's reluctance to register a case, police's negligence in investigating it and arresting the perpetrators. Moreover the police's lack of sensitivity in dealing with such cases, rooted in the patriarchal mindset of the Nepalese society, adds additional hardships on the victim seeking redress.

Such an attitude adds itself to the social stigma that victims of sexual violence keep on facing and often discourages them from seeking redress and result in the impunity of the perpetrators which encourages further violence. According to the 2009 human rights annual report (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136091.htm)of the United States Department of State only 25% of rape victims who reported the crime to the authorities said that the government had arrested and convicted the perpetrator.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please join us in asking for the prompt investigation of this case by writing to the authorities listed below.

Please be also informed that the AHRC is writing separately to the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences and to the field office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kathmandu.

To support this appeal, please click here: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/support.php?ua=UAC-123-2010

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