Women’s Tribunal in Nepal hears from survivors of sexual violence during Nepal’s armed conflict, makes broad recommendations for policy and legal reform
A Tribunal hosted by the Nepalese National Human Rights Commission and convened by Nepalese organisations WOREC, National Alliance for Women Human Rights Defenders,Nagarik Awaj, and Advocacy Forum on 8 December heard testimony from ten women who survived acts of sexual violence and intimidation committed during Nepal’s armed conflict. The proceedings of the Women’s Tribunal on Sexual Violence on Women During Conflict coincide with deliberations in Nepal on the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation process that will shed light on crimes committed during the ten-year conflict.
The women who testified in the Tribunal, most of whom had not previously publicly shared their stories for fear of stigmatisation and discrimination, gave harrowing accounts of rape, torture and subsequent abandonment by their families and communities.
The Tribunal, whose jury was comprised of regional and international human rights experts, made a number of findings and recommendations. It found that rape and other acts of sexual violence were committed during the armed conflict that were violations of Nepalese law, as well as international humanitarian law and human rights law. It also found that the majority of women did not make formal complaints about the violence they had experienced because of factors including fear of social stigma and the lack of an enabling environment for such complaints to be made. It was also found that where complaints were made no action whatsoever had been taken by the relevant authorities of the State to hold perpetrators accountable or bring them to justice.
The Tribunal also found that, in most cases, the significant physical and psychological trauma
experienced by the women was compounded by their subsequent forced eviction from their marital home, stigmatisation, and discriminatory treatment by their families and communities. This left most women in a deeply impoverished state, without access to necessary medical and psycho-social support services. The Tribunal found that the sexual violence experienced by the women was enabled by a number of social, political and cultural factors, including historical and entrenched inequality in power between men and women in Nepal, as well as discrimination on the basis of class, caste and ethnicity.
The Tribunal made several critical policy and institutional recommendations. It requested that the National Human Rights Commission investigate the cases heard by the Tribunal and urgently address the entitlement of survivors to justice, redress, compensation and other reparations. It recommended that the Government of Nepal immediately make available appropriate support services to the survivors and their families, including medical, psycho-social, legal and livelihood support, and that the Nepalese law governing rape and citizenship be reformed to be brought into line with international standards, including by reforming the statute of limitations applicable to rape. Finally, it stated that any transitional justice process established by the Government, including a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), must have the mandate to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, including sexual violence, and provide meaningful accountability for human rights violations committed during the armed conflict. It expressed grave concern at the possibility that crimes of sexual violence would be subject to mediation by the TRC, which would be contrary to international human rights standards.
The proceedings of the Tribunal will be shared with the Government of Nepal, the UN Human Rights Council, and other regional and international agencies. A more detailed report of the Tribunal’s proceedings will be published shortly.
The jury of the Tribunal comprised: Rita Thapa (Nagarik Awaj, Nepal), Tulika Srivastava (South Asia Women’s Fund), Roshmi Goswami (Urgent Action Fund, India, and Asia Pacific Women’s Alliance on Peace and Security (APWAPS)), Tessa Khan (Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and APWAPS), Kumi Samuel (Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era – DAWN, Women and Media Collective, Sri Lanka, and APWAPS), and Lesley Ann Foster (Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, South Africa). Grace Harbour, Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, provided legal advice on the process of the Tribunal.
For more information please contact:
Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) and National Alliance of Women Human Right Defenders (NAWHRD): Renu Rajbhandari, firstname.lastname@example.org ( 977-9851044897) (speaks English and Nepali)