Nepal must adapt its definition of rape and other forms of sexual violence to meet international standards, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a decision published today in Geneva. Issued in response to an individual complaint from Ms. Fulmati Nyaya (pseudonym) an indigenous woman who as a child was the victim of rape, torture and forced labour during the Nepali armed conflict, the Committee called on Nepal to remove obstacles that hindered victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence in filing complaints and accessing justice and compensation.
In 2002, when the victim was 14 years old, soldiers entered her village looking for Maoists. Mistaking her for her older sister who had joined the Maoist party the previous year, they took her to Army barracks where she was detained incommunicado, interrogated blindfolded, and raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence. She was also beaten and forced to do work in the barracks, such as carrying bricks and sand.
Eventually freed by family members after more than one and a half months, she did not complain to any authority about the crimes she had been victim of due to social stigma attached to sexual violence in Nepali society and lack of access to information about available avenues to seek justice and compensation. It was only in 2014 when she attempted to register a complaint that she came up against Nepal’s 35-day deadline (known in legal terms as a “statute of limitation,”) for reporting the crime of rape. “Filing a complaint would have been materially impossible for her as she was being held in arbitrary detention at the time,” the Committee wrote in its decision. The Committee called on Nepal to include in its legislation a significant increase of the statute of limitations, in line with the gravity of such crimes.
As remedies in Nepal’s criminal justice system were both ineffective and unavailable to her, the victim took her complaints to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. An independent expert body composed of 18 international human rights experts, the Committee has the mandate to examine allegations of human rights violations as Nepal in 1991 acceded to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Individuals can hold their States accountable to international human rights standards, and it is our hope Nepal will revise all its legislation which hinders victims, especially of sexual violence, in seeking justice. The Government must also put in place measures and mechanisms to address past grievances,” said Ahmad Fathalla, Chairperson of the Committee.
In its decision, the Committee requested Nepal to report back within 180 days detailing the measures it had been taken to remedy the situation
The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has 172 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.
Its Optional Protocol, which to date has 116 States parties, establishes the right of individuals to complain to the Committee against States which violated their human rights. The Optional Protocol imposes an international legal obligation on State parties to comply in good faith with the Committee’s Views. Further information on the individual complaints procedures before the Committees.