Book The Criminals

The country marked 108th International Women’s Day on March 8 with much fanfare. In the recent years, Nepal has started observing the day as a national holiday in recognition of the rights of women in the nation. This historic day, however, saw a heinous crime meted out to an innocent rustic girl in the far-western part of the country. Radha Chaudhary of Deukali in Ghodhaghodi Municipality-5, Kailali, was mercilessly beaten up by a local shaman Ram Bahadur Chaudhary aka Bhole Baba on charge of practising witchcraft. He had been held by the local police, but Sub-inspector Dinesh Bista is reported to have released Bhole Baba within hours under the pressure of Mamata Prasad Chaudhary, the mayor of the Municipality, Ward Chair Prem Rokaya and victim’s father Jokhan Chaudhary before he was rearrested after the case swept the media. Beaten black and blue, 20-year-old Radha has cuts and bruises all over her body and has been undergoing treatment at Seti Zonal Hospital. She said she is not the first woman to suffer Bhole Baba’s excesses; he has beaten up several women in the village accusing them of practising witchcraft. The government, both local and federal, and police are under huge pressure to initiate action against the guilty and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa has pledged to take stern action against the perpetrators of such violence against women.

This is the latest case of violence against a woman on charge of witchcraft that has come to light. We have heard of numerous such cases in the past, particularly in the Terai plains. In general, such cases stem from illiteracy, lack of awareness and superstition. Though we live in the 21st century, about 35 per cent of the people in our country remain illiterate. And illiterate people tend to believe in superstitions. Since they fail to understand the workings of biology and nature, they often blame the less privileged and less articulate members of the community, particularly women, for the illness and death of other villagers. But not all cases of violence against women stem from illiteracy and superstition. Neither are they meted out by women against other women. There are various other forms of violence meted out against women such as domestic torture, sexual assault and rape. A study has revealed that more than half of the women face violence from their own relatives. Males, even educated ones and police and government officials have been found to be the perpetrators in many of these cases.

To check violence against women is one of the prime challenges of the government and the entire society. Lately, there is a lot of thrust from the government and non-government agencies to minimise the cases of violence against women and ensure justice to the victims as and when such cases come to notice. The government had instituted a task force under the Prime Minister’s office in participation of all the concerned stakeholders to put legal and institutional measures in place to tackle the issue effectively. However, it is estimated that only about 15 per cent women in the country know that there is a law against violence against women. It is necessary for the state to work in cooperation with the NGOs and the civil society to end violence against women. They have to work together to spread education and awareness programmes and make males tolerant towards women. Only by bringing all forms of violence against women to an end can we lead our nation on the path of peace and prosperity.

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