NEPAL: Conflict and Women Victims

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Himalayan Times
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

The debate on development, peace and the rule of law entails the notion of reciprocity, as one is necessarily anchored on the other. While development without peace is impossible, peace without the rule of law is unimaginable. Hence, each state provides certain provisions in its legislation to ensure peace in the country. A country can guarantee peace and order provided the state mechanisms are run in accordance with such legal provisions. In order to ensure peace in the society, each and every sovereign nation promulgates national laws with the provisions of punishment against those who breach the law.

The decade-long armed conflict in Nepal serves as an epitome of grave human rights violations and abuses. Hundreds and thousands of populace, including women and children in the same number, are directly or indirectly affected by this insurgency. Besides, a huge amount of public and private property has been demolished during this conflict. This insurgency can be identified as an inhumane war breaching the basic principles of national and international humanitarian laws. Completely indifferent to the basic norms of war rules and national legislations, the warring parties left no stone unturned to fulfill their vested interests. The atrocities of the conflict had its ill effects in every walk of life. Industries and factories, the backbone of infrastructure, were closed under various pretexts and pretensions, schools were used as hideouts and shelters, women, children many others were targeted for their rejection to join the war. These were routine phenomena during the conflict.

The Nepali society is structured in such a way that women till date are regarded as incomplete humans. Due to the patriarchal social structure and similar male-centered legal provisions, women are at the bottom rung of social hierarchy, and their condition grew worse during and after the conflict. Naturally, unarmed and weak citizens and especially women, children and the aged are the most vulnerable groups in any kind of violence or struggle. Raping women in broad daylight in front of the family members, and even gang raping them were common during the conflict. Because of this atrocity, many women lost their lives and many children became orphans. Incidents of brutal killings of teachers, government officers, and other common people who didn't participate in the war are still fresh in our memory.

There is a glaring need to introduce a systematic legal framework in order to bring the alleged perpetrators to book. These women victims, who even don't have the slightest knowledge of the law, feel that they have no hope that the state will address their problems and provide justice to them.

Human rights are considered as the backbone of peace and development. These are non-derogable rights of citizens. States engulfed in internal infightings and wars have to follow human rights and humanitarian laws during such conflict. Whether there is conflict or peace, the international treaties on human rights, which have been ratified by Nepal should be respected. The state mustn't give exemption under any pretension.

Most of the states that had undergone internal wars establish special legal provisions with an investigation mechanism of experts to investigate the past human rights violations, establish the truth behind the allegations of human rights violations and prosecute the guilty. Such mechanisms are found strongly working for the prosecution of human rights violators during the armed insurgency. But, in Nepal, till date the subsequent governments, and political parties have failed to bring about an objective conclusion regarding establishing such mechanism by promulgating effective laws. Likewise, they have not shown their interest to form such a mechanism to investigate past human rights violations and prosecute the perpetrators. Impunity is one of the several hurdles to address the past human rights violations in Nepal. Thousands of cases of human rights violations and abuses that took place during the Maoists insurgency are documented, and the victims and victims' family members are waiting for justice, but till date not even a single one has come up for investigation. Especially women, who were directly or indirectly affected by the internal conflict, are in miserable conditions. But, no agency has paid their attention towards their condition and needs. Likewise, no new law has been promulgated to address their problems.

The legal provisions that can oblige the authorities concerned to implement the national and international law on women and children should be included in the constitution. Likewise, to provide justice to them by investigating past human rights violations, a comprehensive, clear and separate human rights law should be promulgated. There are hundreds of women victims of sexual harassment, but there is no law to address their problems. So, a new law that can address women's sentiments in the social context of Nepal should be promulgated. The new law should address the problems of the victims of torture, those who have been maimed, or sexually assaulted. To end the longstanding culture of impunity and promote human rights standards in Nepal, the new law should make the human rights violators liable in practice.