Kathmandu, May 26 (EFE).- Nepal must urgently remove the statute of limitations on cases of rape and other sexual violence through amendments as it continues to be a barrier for survivors in access to justice, Amnesty International said Thursday.
AI, in a statement, also expressed solidarity with the ongoing protests in Nepal demanding swift justice for victims of sexual violence and called for reform of laws related to rape.
People have taken to the streets since aspiring model Sushmita Regmi, through video-sharing app TikTok, accused the organizers of a beauty pageant of raping her in 2014, when she was 16.
On May 18, in the series of videos, Regmi had claimed that Manoj Pandey, an organizer of the beauty pageant Miss Global International, had been raping her for months.
In the videos, the young woman broke down explaining that Nepali law has a one year limit for survivors to report rape cases.
On May 21, police arrested Pandey, while the Kathmandu District Court has permitted the police to keep Pandey in custody for a few days to investigate the case.
Under the 2017 penal code of Nepal, complaints of rape must be filed within one year from the date of the crime, and this statute of limitations has become a barrier to justice for victims, lawyer and human rights activist Mohna Ansari explained to EFE.
“This is grossly restrictive as it prevents many victims from accessing legal remedy effectively, in particular, victims of child rape,” said to the AI statement.
The rights watchdog said the “grossly restrictive and inadequate length” of the limitation fails to take into account the stigma that women and girls face when reporting cases of sexual and gender-based violence and prevents them from accessing legal remedy, thus fostering impunity for such crimes.
“Time and again we have seen courageous survivors are denied justice because of the outdated and harmful one-year limit for filing rape complaints,” said AI’s South Asia Regional Director Yamini Mishra.
“The current provision is grossly restrictive, unfair and unmindful of the state the survivor might be in. In its current form, such provisions allow many perpetrators of rape to get away with their crimes,” she added.
Previously, the statute of limitations was 35 days.
In 2008, Nepal’s Supreme Court issued a directive asking the government to amend laws considering the victim’s psychological status, the time required for investigation, and the existing barriers to justice.
Consequently, the statute of limitations was extended to one year under the new 2017 penal code.
“The government must take swift measures to review the legislation to bring it in line with international standards, including ensuring gender-neutral references in the law for perpetrators and victims,” said Mishra.
“The authorities in Nepal must not ignore the demands of women’s rights activists for this important change to strengthen survivors’ rights in the country,” Mishra concluded. EFE