“Domestic violence and the victimisation of women is not new in our male-directed societies, what is new is the degree to which its magnification through social media can spread solidarity, and potentially trigger policy change.” Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:
The street demonstrations in Kathmandu against recent rapes and murders of women would probably not have made it to the #2 news on BBC World on Saturday morning if it hadn’t been tagged to the anti-rape protests in Delhi. And that story wouldn’t have been the #1 item if the protests in India hadn’t snowballed due to outraged citizens on social media leading the charge. As the protests grew and continued in India, it fuelled print and TV coverage, and the chain reaction attained critical mass.
In Nepal, protests over the robbery and rape of a 20-year-old woman by immigration and police broke into the public consciousness last month because of the role of journalists and cyber-savvy activists. Left to the traditional media, the story would probably have died quietly like many other rape stories before. It was a tipping point because the crime involved immigration officials who looted the young woman and a policeman who, instead of protecting her, turned predator. Pending murders and disappearances of women in Kathmandu, and the cases of two young women who were burnt alive by family members in Banke and Bara at about the same time, added fuel to the fire. The protests in Kathmandu would possibly have happened anyway, but saturation coverage in the Indian media about the Delhi rape also helped sustain the public’s interest in Nepal.
These were not isolated crimes. Rape has always been endemic in Nepal, it’s just that women press charges more often now and the media reports it. It is also a cross-border phenomenon because we share similar patriarchal value-systems with northern India. At the time this story was breaking in Nepal, a piece by Satrudhan Shah and commissioned by the Centre for Investigative Journalism detailed many cases in the eastern Tarai of victims forced to marry their rapists by the community, police and even gender rights activists. The story was published in Annapurna Post in Nepali, and as ‘Rape for Ransom’ in English in Nepali Times. More: