KATHMANDU – A Nepalese woman who was gang-raped as a child finally has seen her attackers convicted after a yearslong legal battle that took her to the country’s highest court, but said she was still waiting for compensation for her ordeal.
Pooja Bohara was dragged into a bathroom and raped in 2012 when she was 14, a case that made headlines and triggered anger across the Himalayan nation.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court found two men guilty of gang rape, four years after a lower court acquitted them citing a lack of evidence.
The two men now face a jail sentence of up to 19 years, but Bohara, who was stigmatized and was ostracized even by some of her own relatives after she reported the attack, said that did not amount to justice. “Does just sending two men to jail mean justice to me?” she said in a brief telephone interview. “I should also get compensation.”
Bohara left her village in remote western Nepal after the attack and was given shelter by the charity Raksha Nepal, which helps sexually exploited girls and women.
Since then she has embarked on a law degree, saying she wanted to become a judge to help other victims get justice, and is now in her final year.
Menuka Thapa, who heads Raksha Nepal, said Bohara was granted compensation after her attackers were convicted for the first time, but the payment got held up by their appeal.
She welcomed the Supreme Court verdict, saying it showed there was “rule of law” in Nepal. “This has raised hopes that even poor and ordinary victims like Pooja can get justice,” said Thapa.
An average of three rapes are reported in Nepal every day, but the real number is likely much higher, according to Human Rights Watch.
In recent years greater media attention, protests by civil society groups and changes in some government policies have helped embolden women and raise awareness about their rights, say campaigners.
Earlier this month, Nepal’s parliament speaker resigned to allow an investigation into a rape accusation against him.
Yet the conviction rate for crimes against women remains low at about 5 percent because many victims do not testify for fear of the stigma associated with rape, said Thapa of Raksha Nepal.