Nepal's Justice System Fails Rape Survivors as Perpetrators Walk Free

Sandeep Lamichhane (L) is escorted by police outside the districtl court following his release on bail.
Sandeep Lamichhane (L) is escorted by police outside the districtl court following his release on bail. Pic Credit: AFP File Photo

According to Gaushala-26, who goes by the code name given to her by the law enforcement organization, she has been in hiding for several months now, while her perpetrator is walking free, playing international cricket matches and receiving political endorsements and sympathy from the public. She is still a minor, according to information on her citizenship certificate.

Sandeep Lamichhane, a Delhi Capitals player in the Indian Premier League and one of the key players of the national cricket team of Nepal, is alleged to have raped a 17-year-old woman. This attracts Section 219 of the Criminal Code of 2074 of Nepal. But not only has he avoided punishment, he has also received honors and accolades from the Prime Minister, the President, and several other political figures, as well as being given a free pass to play abroad.

In an interview with a local newspaper in Nepal, Gaushala-26 expresses her dissatisfaction with the legal system, alleging that it is biased against women and that perpetrators of rape frequently escape punishment. She is enraged by the fact that society has softened its stance on sexual assault and, as a result, has shown sympathy for the offender.

On the other hand, a protest was held in Kathmandu against the Cricket Association of Nepal for giving a free pass to the accused, and a significant number of people attended to condemn this act of impunity. However, these protesters were severely criticized by those in power and a few media houses known for publishing misogynistic content. This illustrates how neither the Nepali justice system, civil society, nor the media stand up against gender-based violence when it involves protecting powerful men who commit such crimes.

Another similar incident involved a 17-year-old singer who claimed that one of Nepal's well-known actors, Purna Bikram Shah aka Paul Shah, had raped her while making a false marriage proposal. In February 2022, she instituted legal action in Nepal's Tanahun district. This was viewed as grooming in particular because the 32-year-old actor created an environment where he could abuse the child by winning their trust.

Sandeep Lamichhane (L) is escorted by police outside the districtl court following his release on bail.
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The survivor was harassed in public during her concerts, pelted with stones, and her hostility caused her to momentarily change her statement while Shah was in prison with more than a dozen film scripts and music video projects waiting for him outside. Even the comments she got on each of her social media posts were hurtful.

After serving a two years and six month prison sentence, Shah is now a free man. Senior police officers and politicians gathered outside the prison on the day of his acquittal to welcome him back with garlands and tilaks.

The majority of reported rape cases involve minors, according to statistics released by Women Rehabilitation Center in Nepal. In fiscal year 2020–2021, 37 percent of reported rape cases involved victims who were 17–25 years old and 45 percent involved girls under the age of 16.

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Whether it be Lamichhane or Shah, how are they readily accepted by society and the state? Why are the state and society rapidly moving in the direction of victim-blaming, and just contributing to making their experience worse? Although the law should ideally aim to empower women, patriarchy dominates the implementation process and applies the law in a way that defends men— the powerful men!

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Mooknayak staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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