A fight for justice

A fight for justice


When Pooja Bohara heard that the two men who had dragged her into a toilet and raped her had been released from prison nine months ago, the Nepali teenager, seen above through a door of the Raksha Nepal rehabilitation centre, went into shock.

But despite being blamed and stigmatised by some in her community in western Nepal for reporting the rape and forced to seek refuge in the capital, the 17-year-old says she is not giving up her fight for justice.

. Kathmandu, Nepal. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

"Society and some family members blame me. My uncle even suggested that I should be placed in a heap of straw and burnt to death, but my father was for justice," said Bohara, sitting in the rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu.

"It is not our fault that we are raped. Victims should come out and tell their story to the courts and seek justice."

The two men, who had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in March 2013, were acquitted by an appeals court last April due to a lack of evidence.

. Kathmandu, Nepal. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
The fingers of Pooja Bohara are pictured during an interview.

Growing awareness in Nepal of crimes against women has helped an increasing number of victims like Bohara to challenge a culture that often blames or shuns them into silence, say police and activists.

"Women are now more aware of their rights than before and are courageously coming out and reporting crimes against them, including sexual violence, to police," said Mingmar Lama, chief of a police unit that monitors violence against women.

. Kathmandu, Nepal. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Menuka Thapa speaks during an interview at the Raksha Nepal rehabilitation Centre.

But despite improvements and greater awareness, most women still remain unaware of their rights and do not come forward to report crimes due to fears of stigmatisation, said Menuka Thapa, head of Raksha Nepal, the charity sheltering Bohara.

"In many cases, women who suffer violence from their own family members are dependent on the family, so they cannot speak up,” Thapa said.

. Kathmandu, Nepal. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Bohara poses for a picture.

Mustering the courage to come forward and report violent crimes is just the first step in a long and often painful process to get justice. But Bohara is not waiting. The teenager has appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear her case later this month.

"The incident has totally affected my life. It was a turning point in my life," said Bohara. "I want to study law and become a judge so I can seek justice for victims like myself."