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Geschreven door >Helen Brown op Mon, 03 Jun 1996 23:19:03 met als onderwerp: Murder, Rape and Police, Nepal

Even in "safe" countries like Nepal, danger can lurk in most
unsuspected quarters.

The following letters and articles from "The Independent"
[Kathmandu], viewed from the perspective of a reader of the
radical press, represent just one angle on a huge problem,
some aspects of which are largely hidden.

Like most of its visitors, I have a special place in my heart
for Nepal. I trekked so often in this beautiful friendly land
that I wanted to work there. This entailed solitary treks in
the Himalayas, both for work and pleasure, so my Nepalese
friends were concerned for my safety. They encouraged me to
give up reading "The Rising Nepal", with its tales of the
marvellous concern shown by the government for the well-being
of the people, and turn to "The Independent", which takes a
harsher view of reality.

On 3rd February 1993, the following article appeared:

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Sexual Harassment of Tourists.

>> In Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu, there is
a travel agent of seemingly perfect manners and reputation. As
well as arranging safaris and rafting trips, he organises
mountaineering expeditions and package treks, but his
specialities include tailor-made treks for discerning
travellers with individual requirements. For example, the
safety-conscious lone woman... Plainly this is no backstreet
operator. With his charisma and precise attention to detail,
he wins the confidence of an international clientele.
Superlatives are lavished on him and his company. Registered,
main-stream, immaculate... Having all the right connections,
he gains the trust of women who look to him for security. And
he capitalises on this trust. Sexual harassment is an
understatement...

He prefers rape. In fact, serial rape. <<

So at this point you not only wonder who this guy is,
but how he can get away with it. The author
continues...

>> Unfortunately, he cannot be dismissed as a fly-by-night
operator easily avoided by any woman with common sense. As a
main-stream tour operator, with income from the Western world,
he is a very prosperous man in an extremely poor,
corruption-ridden country, where officials and police are
underpaid and the human rights of women are scarcely
understood. Police may opt not to make enemies of wealthy
powerful men, preferring, at the least, to be invited to
parties with plenty of alcohol.

>> In most countries rape is a seriously under-reported crime
because the process of reporting it is a fearful ordeal for
its victims. And not only is this rapist / travel agent very
discreet because he has to maintain his perfect reputation,
but he and his accomplice threaten victims with retaliation.
In such a corrupt country the victims take these threats
seriously. Also the time limit for reporting rape in Nepal is
very short. However, with his guilt firmly established, in
due course his habits could place his victims, his wife and
himself at risk from HIV, and ultimately, death from AIDS.

>> In one of the poorest countries on earth, tourists are
a major source of foreign income. So the Nepalese government
aims to increase tourism and to encourage tourists to deal
with registered companies. Although this man brings foreign
exchange into the country, yet tourists return home with
horror stories of having put their trust in a registered and
"reputable" company and later suffered severe abuse. Male
friends and relatives fear for the safety of the women they
know, so in the long term his behaviour, as he exploits more
and more women, could eventually damage the reputation of
tourism in Nepal.

>> What actions, if any, are taken to prevent such offences, not
only for the safety of women travellers,
but also to protect the image of Nepal and the interests of
innocent Nepalis involved in tourism? Do the owners of all
travel companies and hotels in Kathmandu realise that it is in
their own financial interests to put pressure on this
offender, if they know who he is? <<

In Asia, independent women are far too easily confused with
immoral women, [no matter how carefully they dress]. The
author went on to challenge the myth that victims are to blame
in any way whatsoever for being raped. Clearly it was the
intention of this man, and others like him, to deceive
innocent women into believing they were safe in situations
where they can be easily victimised.

>> Some people are so prejudiced they see rape as shame for the
woman, not the man, but rape can only take place when the
woman's intentions are virtuous and the man's are immoral and
indecent. It is natural not the victim's fault in any way that
she was born with less physical strength, but obviously her
spirit and intellect are equal to that of any man. So rape of
course brings shame to the man, not the woman, and also to
anyone so irrational as to blame the woman for being
exploited. In the tourist industry, such beliefs, like these
systematic rapes, can only
damage the reputation of Nepal. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

But it later turned out that those friendly Nepalese travel
agents did not put discernible pressure on the offender.
Instead they put pressure on "The Independent" not to frighten
the tourists. But many sincere Nepalis echoed the feelings
expressed in a letter in "The Independent" on 3rd March.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Shame.

>> Dear Sir,

>> The article on the rape of tourists shows how disgusting, sly
and treacherous some in the tourism trade can be. A client
should always be treated with affection and proper respect.
Betrayal by one's host is a most shameful thing.

Nepal is renowned for its warm friendly people. Our
hospitality has always been praised by visitors. Such
unscrupulous individuals seriously tarnish the image of a
country that is very much dependent on aid, foreign loans and
tourism. Hence such activities must be deplored by all.

Yours, <<

Tsering Tamang. <<

Kathmandu. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

But for my own safety I really needed to know about this
cunning rapist with his registered trekking company.

On March 31st I found the following editorial: [Editorials in
"The Independent" are anonymous.]

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Law and Order Situation.

>> Contrary to the claims by the Home Minister, Sher Bahadur
Deuba, that the kingdom is peaceful, the real state of law and
order gives rise to much insecurity and concern. Law
enforcement has weakened considerably, and the weakness is
being exploited by miscreants against whom nothing is being
done. Anti-social
elements have been banking on the support or goodwill of one
party or the other. Everyone can see the results; a housewife
returning from worship is raped in front of her husband, young
girls are similarly victimised, and at least eight people died
in a shoot-out near the frontier. These are just a few
illustrations to prove that the Home Minister is lying.

Much of the insecurity is due to the conflict among rival
political parties and personalities. Even the ruling Congress
party admits that the chances are that victims without party
connections will be ignored. Senior police officials complain
that, no matter who is right and who is wrong, they can do
nothing without the support of political parties. This rule of
the jungle benefits no-one except a handful of power brokers
basking in the warm glow of their muscle strength.

A serious review of law and order is long overdue as little,
if anything, seems to have been done to transform the police
force into an effective institution. In many instances, police
are guilty of misconduct. The owner of a stolen motorcycle was
publicly beaten and slapped in the face by the very policeman
who was using his motorcycle. When a poor
farmer in Chitwan refused to give a chicken to the police free
of charge, they beat him to death. Such outrageous
misbehaviour is totally unbecoming of any public institution
in a democracy. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Hmmm, sounds a little like home? Seriously, it helps to
explain how this man can operate in Thamel instead of finding
himself in jail. Who wants to report rape to police of that
sort?

On 28th April there was a response:

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Law and Disorder.

>> Dear Sir,

>> Anyone who knows the present state of Nepal must agree with
the Comment on Law and Order that the Home Minister appears to
be concealing the truth.

What about the thousands of girls sold to Indian brothels?
What about the exploitation of countless women in Nepal
through rape and violence? And what does the Women's Defence
Pressure Group, do, if anything, apart from making empty
noises while boosting their own prestige as leaders of the
women's movement in Nepal by posturing with ministers in front
of cameras? How would their leaders feel if they suffered the
crimes committed against the victims they claim to represent?

Not only Nepalis suffer crimes. Westerners also are victimised
in Thamel. Is the boss of the tourism company who was proved
guilty of raping tourists in prison, or still in business, and
if he is still operating, why? Do police realise how easy it
is for a miscreant to learn though his contacts where a person
is, then to pass the reception of many hotels unchallenged and
enter a room unasked? Are cries even heeded? Do police even
bother to take note?

Recently I witnessed a disgusting incident in Tridervi Marg. A
foreign women was suddenly attacked in public without any
apparent cause, then sexually molested by men in the crowd in
front of police who did nothing to protect her. Shame on the
Thamel Police! If they are so ineffective in public, them
their presence in Thamel is a farce!

I have seen poor men violently beaten up in police stations,
but what crimes, if any, are investigated when culprits are
rich? Nepal desperately needs Western money, but seems likely
to lose income from tourism as such situations become known.
But what of the poor Nepalis who have no choice but to suffer
increasing disorder?

Yours, <<

Richard Brown. <<

Kathmandu. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

At some point or other the notion that inappropriate clothing
leads to women being molested or raped is bound to be raised.
So a letter published on 13th October gave food for thought.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Implications.

>> Dear Sir,

>> Recently a modestly-dressed Western lady was peacefully
walking thorough Thamel ahead of me. As she passed a police
post, a policeman jeered at her, "Pross!" There was no reason
whatsoever to assume her to be a prostitute. This being her
first visit to Nepal, she was understandably shaken and
offended. She told me policemen had also accosted her friend
with an insulting "Hello" of the kind associated with over-
familiar street rowdies.

Cultural misunderstandings resulting from bad western movies
are no excuse for such insults. These men degrade themselves.
Women deserve the respect decent men show to their mothers and
sisters. Consider the unfavourable image international society
may form of Nepalese police if such undisciplined behaviour
continues unchecked. And the deeper implications of
lawlessness in a society that needs foreign money.

Yours, <<

Duncan John Preston. <<

President, I.O.A, U.K. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

As I read on 15th December, even being with friends doesn't
always help... And police attitudes can only aggravate the
problem.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Red eye and...

>> Dear Sir,

>> Two women friends and I were trekking in Solo Khumbu. Because
I had injured my leg, we could not walk from Namche to
Tengboche in a day, so we had to stop just after the turning
to Khumjung. We asked for accommodation at Sangnasa Lodging
and Fooding, a large house with blue windows on the uphill
side.

Once we were inside, a young man told us offensively that we
could stay there only if we had sex with him. We naturally
refused point-blank. His attitude became worse and when I
objected, he beat me up, giving me a black eye. Then Sherpas
living in the lodge intervened. After picking up my scattered
possessions, they told us he had gone to Khumjung when in fact
we could see him hiding. Then they rudely slammed the door on
us. The neighbours, who took us in, told us he worked there.
On our return we plucked up enough courage to enquire at the
lodge. The wife of the owner, Sonam Jangbu Sherpa, pacified us
with tea and gave conflicting stories about the man being a
guide to other trekkers. Plainly she was worried because we
had talked widely about the attack.

I have even heard that I am supposed to have attacked the man,
but how could a lame woman twice the man's age do such a
thing? In fact I only defended myself to reduce chances of
personal injury. Knowing the attitudes of the Nepalese police,
we saw no point in reporting the incident, apart from being
able to send a letter to a guide book with the statement that
the police did nothing. Predictably the police at Tengboche,
in ordinary clothes without identity badges, ignored the
report. Language was not a problem as I speak sufficient
Nepali. They jeered and played cards, then one of their number
molested me.

These incidents completely marred our enjoyment of the trek. I
have visited Nepal a dozen times and remember when it was a
safe country, but may I ask how women are supposed to be sure
of trekking safely if police are too ill-mannered and idle to
deal with criminal offences?

Apparently it is no longer safe to trek with friends but,
whereas I do not doubt that good companies exist, I have had
various treks with registered companies manipulated by rude
lazy rogues to their own advantage. In fact, sometimes I
seemed to be paying thugs and vandals to accompany me. It is
possible these companies operate proper standards for men, but
not neccessarily for women unaccompanied by men. At least one
wealthy trek company owner actually rapes tourists. Presumably
he maintains an appearance of respectability through influence
with authorities who only pretend to understand the human
rights of women.

Such a situation requires proper standards and discipline
among the police and also firm, positive action in the tourist
industry to sift out miscreants from genuinely trustworthy
travel agents, who will only suffer because of offences
committed by others. Otherwise what future can tourism have
in Nepal if fifty per cent of its visitors come to anticipate
harassment and danger? <<

Yours, <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

On the same day there was an editorial:

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> The Woman Problem.

>> Whatever the precise circumstances related by a foreign woman
in today's issue, it is an established fact that such
treatment of women is rife all over the sub- continent.
Although the character of an entire people can never be judged
by the behaviour of a few, it is also true that no-one can
succesfully oppress others unless he has widespread support.
This includes not only those who actively collude in such
oppression, but also those who ignore the victimisation of
others, for whatever reason, so it can continue unchecked.

Complaisance and apathy only produce moral decay. While such
outrages happen, how can we feel any kind of justification for
national pride? This violence against women undermines our
self-esteem and challenges us to rethink our image of being
inhabitants of an enlightened civilisation.

We who live here know that the Third World is not the tower of
spiritual knowledge and strength which many a Western visitor
seeks. One reason for the prevailing predatory situation may
be the sexual hypocrisy and frustration of Third World men,
inflamed by pornographic books and films, ironically of
Western origin. So in a country where social taboos keep the
sexes apart, their image of Western women is linked to
pornography, and the freedom of these women to pursue their
own lives is grossly misunderstood. Another reason is the
profiteering hoped for by transporters, hoteliers, shopkeepers
and touts. Visitors, European or not, have a right not to be
pestered. The problem seems entrenched in a culture that
degrades women despite ostensibly placing them on absurd
pedestals.

But sustained action against the gangs that harass tourists at
airports, bus depots and areas with tourist hotels could
produce results if the general public is strongly urged to
support the rights of visitors. Tradition-bound Malaysia has
benefited in this way. The woman-eating monsters are of all
classes, colours and religions; many are educated but all are
cowardly when challenged. If nothing is done, the women of
Nepal will suffer most of all. So public intervention may
prove a step in the right direction for society. <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

I found the vast majority of visitors supported my view that
no society is entitled to the benefits of our money if it is
not prepared to respect our rights. Respect for culture and
the desire to behave well abroad does not oblige you to turn
yourself, and consequently those who come after you, into
victims of harassment and exploitation.

But I used to receive mixed messages about respect for myself
as a woman. At one extreme there would be enthusiastic
ex-Gurkhas with enormous grins:

"Namaste Memsahib! I am so proud to have served Queen
Elizabeth! Please, welcome to my home!"

On the other hand, there were types who believed it acceptable
to harass me, even touch me, in spite of my long skirts and
non-revealing dress. This necessitated firm confrontation, not
only for my own sake, but also to make them think twice about
harassing the next woman. Seen in that light, confrontation
could indeed be viewed as a social responsibility. At times I
found myself with a crowd of Nepalese men on my side against
the offender.

In other circumstances I could find a mixed reaction.

"She is an educated foreign expert. She is here to help our
country. She observes our customs. But... she's a
WOMAN!"

Naturally, different aspects of this image carried weight with
different men. But contact with the women- folk was relatively
limited, because fewer women had the education to speak
English. Getting to know some of them in their own homes, once
I had learned sufficient Nepali, is an experience that did
eventually come my way, but not an everyday occurrence like
meeting their menfolk.

I found a widely held belief among many ordinary Nepalis that
foreigners have privileges and protection that they lack. I am
not convinced of it, but the belief itself could confer a
certain degree of safety. Bearing in mind the attitude of
police, I would speculate that it depends on their social
position as well as their nature. No doubt the status of the
rapist in Thamel puts him above such fears in a country where
impartial policing scarcely appears to exist.

The previous summer the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala,
and the Home Minister had travelled to the U.N. Human Rights
conference in Vienna with a fanfare of trumpets, and the
Rising Nepal had published an article on June 18th entitled:
"Nepalese Enjoying Human Rights".

It stated that while in Europe, the Prime Minister of Nepal
had talked about his country's strong commitment to the cause
of democracy and human rights. Answering a question about the
practise of torture in Nepal, he claimed: "Not one single
violation of human rights has happened in Nepal in the past
two years. The Nepalese are enjoying human rights...!"

Two years, of course, was the time he'd been in office.

The previous February Amnesty International had published a
report on torture in Nepal by police. It also referred to the
case of a woman beaten and gang- raped by police a few months
previously and police brutality against political
demonstrators in Kathmandu, resulting in the murder of a
schoolgirl who was not involved in the demonstration.

Yet the report added that no official action appeared to have
been undertaken towards the impartial and independent
investigation of these reports, as laid down by the Convention
Against Torture, which Nepal had recently adopted. It
concluded that crimes by police, including the torture of
detainees, continued and that torturers are not brought to
justice.

The next year Amnesty International reported that at least two
dozen people appeared to have become the victims of
extra-judicial executions by Nepalese police. It highlighted
more cases of rape and attempted rape of women in police
custody, torture, disappearances, arrests without warrants and
long detentions without trial, particularly during political
strikes and demonstrations. It stated that the Home Ministry
had admitted sixteen persons were killed during strikes and
demonstrations a year previously, denying that it was
deliberate.

The Prime Minister's claim was reiterated in a letter on 12th
January 1994 when rape in Kathmandu figured in "The
Independent" again.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> An Open Letter to the Prime Minister.

>> Dear Sir,

>> When you attended the World Conference On Human Rights in
Vienna, at which Women's Rights were especially discussed, you
claimed that not one violation of human rights had taken place
in Nepal in the last two years.

Yet I have been raped by the owner of a prominent trek company
in Thamel. Since much of the economy of Nepal is dependent on
the goodwill of Western tourists, I appeal to you, as an
advocate of law and order, to uphold justice because, like
many other women and girls in Nepal, I have suffered multiple
violations of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

I hope you will agree that we have an absolute right, in all
countries belonging to the United Nations, to remain totally
unmolested and to expect law enforcement systems to offer full
protection at all times. Yet such serious violations are
dismissed as mere "family affairs" and the guilt of wealthy
rapists kept secret so they can abuse other women and girls at
will.

Even $20,000 could not compensate for outrages committed
against the sanctity of our persons. If people are not
prepared to believe, even after the event, that such outrages
can occur in the circumstances in which I was victimised, then
how can anyone expect us to realise the danger in advance? And
yet, when a woman asserts her rights, all impartial evidence
is disregarded in order to slander her as "crazy" and
"immoral". This is merely a poor excuse to evade the very
serious issues involved.

Men who earn respect are those who respect women, as I appeal
to you to do. Rape shames immoral men, not women. Any woman,
however virtuous, can be raped and no woman invites it.

Being blameless, I am proud of my stand for human rights.
Prejudice against women is not to be tolerated. I can
understand that whenever men deny women their rights, people
are disconcerted by a woman of spirit who has the courage and
integrity to expose evil. These issues are hidden by
illogically blaming women for male offences. But if these
rapes did not shame men, why keep them secret?

If the guilt of the man who raped me was already known, the
Nepalese government is automatically guilty of criminal
negligence. He had no right to be in business with a
registered company, or even to be a free man. If I had enough
money, Nepal would now face international lawsuits, resulting
in lack of tourism. With the constantly growing awareness of
women's rights in the
West, it can only be a matter of time before this happens.

I have loved Nepal with all my heart and feel my trust and
devotion have been viciously betrayed. The contant permitted
rape of women and girls cannot shame the victims. It is the
shame of Nepal. <<

Yours, <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

I am sure the majority of Western travel agents would be
appalled to find they were regularly entrusting business to
anyone who could involve them in such a lawsuit. The question
is, since men on a high social plane seem extremely unlikely
to face criminal charges, how can they be totally certain what
kind of company they are dealing with?

Enquiries along this line produce the response that such a
company must be small, temporary, insignificant. Everything
is under control except for a hiccup or two. No need to
frighten away a source of income by acknowledging a problem...


But didn't the first article, with all its superlatives, make
it absolutely plain that the threat was more serious than
that? Yet part of the travel industry still insists such men
are a myth.

However, "The Independent" gave the next letter, on November
2nd 1994, a significant heading:

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> Familiar Pattern.

>> Dear Sir,

>> A woman friend and I booked a trek through a reputable Western
agent, dealing with a charming Nepalese tour operator who took
us from the airport to a popular hotel in Thamel and arranged
our trek, which was a success. On our last night in Kathmandu
he suggested we should all eat at his favourite restaurant,
but first he bought us a drink in the hotel. Then another
client unexpectedly delayed him.

Ten minutes later we both felt totally giddy and
uncoordinated. Half a pint of unadulterated Tuborg could never
have had such a devastating effect. He tried to persuade us to
enter his car, but not only did we feel far too ill, we were
by then thoroughly suspicious. He appeared to have
deliberately drugged us, but since he was a trusted agent and
had already driven us as passengers, but for the chance delay
we would have got in his car without hesitation.

We couldn't find a doctor until next day, when we had to fly
home, still speculating. Was the motive robbery, or even
worse, sexual assault? How could a registered agent attempt
such crimes without jeopardising his reputation? Because law
and order is poor and the police corrupt? Would we have
achieved anything if we'd had time to complain? What, if
anything, would our embassy have done about it?

But reporting the incident back home proved fruitless. The
Western agent merely insisted arrogantly that there had never
been another complaint. So it was still business as usual! <<


Yours, <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

But although "The Independent" is a well-known paper and its
statements, where relevant, are comfirmed by Amnesty
International, how much faith can you put in its truthfulness?


I considered the information in the light of articles on wider
issues, for example: "The Downsizing of Nepali Democracy" by
Kamal Pande, also published on 15th December 1993.

Mr Pande, a very prolific and well-informed Nepalese writer
living in New York, states that when the Home Minister Sher
Bahadur Deuba was in the States on his way to an international
conference, he had a meeting with Nepalis resident in New
York. He was questioned if Nepal had sent fact-finding
missions to the Indian cities where Nepali women are held in
slavery as prostitutes, and if the government had organised
rehabilitation programmes for their benefit if they were ever
released.

Sher Bahadur Deuba's answer? "There are more pressing matters
and priorities in the country!"

I myself have met and spoken to Sher Bahadur Deuba, now Prime
Minister of Nepal. On that occasion searching questions were
not on the agenda and I doubt I would have received honest
answers if they had been.

But it was known in Thamel that I had contacts that could take
me into such circles. So one day a hotel boy approached me
because he earnestly hoped I could help him. He could get no
help, no justice whatsoever from within his own society and he
desperately hoped a foreigner had the influence that his own
connections lacked.

He unlocked a box full of photographs and newspaper cuttings.
A portrait of his fourteen-year old sister, smiling, happy. A
family photo such as any loving brother would cherish. Then he
produced a second photo. His sister lay dead, blood running
from the mouth. To spare her further indignity, her torso only
was visible in the picture.... She'd been strangled and raped.


But why show this to me?

He explained. The police had come. A sub-inspector had
thoroughly disturbed the corpse and the area around it. Then
a neighbour had pleaded with him not to bring police dogs
because they would come to their home of her father, who
habitually threatened women of feminist inclinations with
murder. Accordingly the police refused to call the dogs...

Shortly afterwards a young woman working in the carpet
industry reported a complaint to this policeman. Her wealthy
employer had not paid her wages. But the manner of the police
alarmed her so much that she ran away. The sub-inspector had
her arrested and dragged back to the police station. There he
and the other police gang- raped her. Then there was such an
outcry among the villagers that the sub-inspector was jailed.
So, in his absence, who took up the murder case?

No-one!

The bereaved lad showed me a newspaper article. [Yes, "The
Independent" again.] And here was a person directly connected
with one of its feature stories, imploring me for help.

The title of the article?

"Murder No Crime If Victim A Woman!" **

On the same page there was also an editorial: "Look Into",
about the gang rape of the young carpet worker by police and
the riot that followed it.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

>> ... Unfortunately this is not the only case of its kind, as is
borne out by frequent reports in the private media.

As the increase of incidents of such gross misconduct, or even
an escalation of such allegations, very seriously tarnishes
the credibility of the entire police force and undermines the
credibility of the popularly elected government, it is
essential that all such allegations are promptly looked into.
Public interest and safety, not to talk of the reputation of
the government as a whole, demands as much. Will the
authorities therefore take heed and do the needful? <<

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Yet the lad wanted to know if I had contacts with the power to
instigate a murder investigation.

This put me in a dilemma. In Nepal, it is polite to tell
people what they want to hear, especially if you want to show
concern for their feelings. Looking ahead to the dashing of
raised hopes when they realise you were making it up is a
Western concept. But I couldn't tell the lad that I was
utterly powerless to help because that was a breach of good
manners that would seriously upset someone so vulnerable. And
I could not promise to help, as custom required, without
feeling very uncomfortable that I had raised his hopes for
nothing.

Expressing concern for the lad and his dead sister makes far
more sense to me than abandoning him to live without hope or
without being able to mourn his sister as she deserved, out of
excessive respect for arrogant officials who are unduly touchy
about concern for the victims of the system they represent. So
often innocent friendly Nepalese people have begged my help in
various ways, if only I could give it...

The lad put me in touch with the author of "Murder No Crime If
Victim A Woman!", an American scholar who had been resident in
Kathmandu for many years. He was married to a Nepalese woman
and deeply concerned about social and political issues which
included women's status and human rights. We talked at length.
Through him I met Nepalis with whom I could discuss such
issues, and from there I could set about verifying the
accuracy of what I read.

They had information about violence, torture, rape and murder.
And, yes, there certainly is a rapist with a top-class trek
company in Thamel. One disturbing thought is:

In such a society, how can anyone be sure there is only one?

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

Footnotes.

** I hope no-one assumes that because I chose to write this
particular article from the viewpoint of a reader of "The
Independent", it is my main source of reference. I could have
pursued numerous aspects of this subject in greater depth. For
example, why do Foreign Offices and Embassies claim to protect
us and issue warnings, yet take insufficient note of such
crimes in order to humour the authorities of host countries?

** However, I do not intended to deter people from a positive
attitude to travel. Being forewarned is far better than having
a false sense of security or being taken unawares.

** Unnamed writers have given permission for letters to be quoted
here, so long as their identities are not revealed because of
their fear of retaliation or further victimisation.

** I have uploaded "Murder No Crime If Victim A Woman!", by Dr
Stephen Mikesell, and "The Downsizing of Nepalese Democracy",
by Kamal Pande, into soc.cult.nepal. IMO, the points they make
are still valid.

** I am not generalising about *all* Nepalese police. I do not
believe in generalising about every individual of any section
of society.

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Helen Brown: carin@gn.apc.org

3 June, 1996

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%% --"If you drop a stone in a pool, %%
%% the ripples will spread." %%
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