While more than half the girls under 18 who are rape victims fall in the school-going age, the authorities concerned simply have no idea about their educational status.
Nepal Police data shows that around 700 school girls below 18 were rape victims last fiscal year alone. The number is half the total incidence of rape available with police for that year.
Very few of the rape victims, merely 32, are currently residing at a Kathmandu-based shelter and receiving an education. Likewise, five victims in Rautahat aged 6 to 10 years were recently sent to a Makawanpur-based shelter.
According to Menuka Thapa, founder of girls’ shelter Rakshya Nepal, post-rape girls are not made to feel comfortable or secure in their schools, or in society at large.
“My classmates found out that I was a rape victim. One day they offered me money and asked me to sleep with them,” Thapa quoted one girl as saying.
Re-victimization of such girls is nothing new, said Thapa. “In the case of the girl I’m talking about, she had rejoined the school after undergoing proper medical treatment and counseling. But schools pose an even greater threat to such girls.”
Girls living in Kathmandu at Thapa’s shelter go to school at Lainchaur. “The terms and conditions put to the school principal were that their status should never be revealed to anyone around,” said psychologist Karuna Kunwar, who has been counseling such girls.
Rape cases are filed in court as government cases. But that is not enough, says Mohna Ansari, member of the National Human Rights Commission.
“By the time the lengthy legal process ends, the lives of the victim and her family are already ruined,” she stated.
According to her, the real support for victims would be for the state to own them, provide them proper shelter and opportunities to move ahead in life, while safeguarding their dignity.
Early this month, the government came up with a scholarship scheme for rape victims after a few of their guardians went to the Prime Minister’s Office for help.
A secretary-level meeting led by Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal decided to provide scholarships to the girls at government-run residential schools from this academic session, which begins mid-April.
“The authorities have been directed to immediately guarantee education for victims from five districts who are in contact with us,” said PMO Secretary Raju Man Singh Malla.
Meanwhile, the PMO order is still making the rounds at the Ministry of Education (MoE) even though only two weeks remain before the new academic session. As of Sunday, none of the officials were up to date on action taken by the ministry in response to the PMO directive.
“Most high-level officials have just returned from the districts after monitoring the SLC exams,” said MoE Spokesperson Hari Lamsal.