FORUM-ASIA Demands Staff Security for Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) in Nepal
14 June 2007 7:00 pm
FORUM-ASIA demands that the government of Nepal take immediate steps to ensure the safety and security of the staff members of the Women's Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) in Nepal. WOREC staff is currently facing life threats from certain groups from the local community for their work on protecting victims of violence and empowering the Dalits.
FORUM-ASIA denounces the attacks, threats, and intimidation made against the staff of the Women’s Rehabilitation Center (WOREC) and demands that the authorities in Nepal take immediate steps to secure the safety and well-being of these women’s rights defenders.
The WOREC is an organization based in Nepal, with a mission “to work towards the attainment of social justice and human rights for all, particularly for women, children and marginalized groups of people.” WOREC works mainly with local communities, governmental and non-governmental organizations to fulfill its mission.
The recent attacks against the staff of WOREC working in the Siraha district in Nepal started after it took on cases of two victims of rape: Nipur Devi Yadav and Santoshi Kumari Mahato. The staff of WOREC documented these cases, assisted the victims, and took steps to register these cases with the police authorities. It is alleged that Mr. Govinda Yadav, the past Village District Chairperson (VDC), is behind these attacks because he is against WOREC providing empowering activities for the women and Dalits in the community. Mr. Govinda Yadav particularly despises WOREC’s filing cases of rape with the local police authorities, as he believes that this is contrary to the tradition of settling these cases with the VDC. The VDC is reportedly taking money from perpetrators of rape as a form of punishment, without providing justice to the victims.
The attacks against the members of the staff of WOREC have increased and intensified in the past few days. These attacks have escalated to the point of endangering the lives of the members of the staff.
FORUM-ASIA believes that the violent attacks and harassment of human rights defenders should immediately stop, and demands that the government of Nepal ensure the protection and security of the members of the staff of WOREC in Siraha. Specifically, FORUM-ASIA demands that the government of Nepal order the local police authorities to intervene in the situation, to secure the safety of the members of the staff in the WOREC office, to conduct an investigation of the attacks, and to arrest the perpetrators.
“This is of urgent concern. The government of Nepal has to order the local authorities to protect the staff of WOREC. The entire world is watching and the government cannot, at this stage of building its democracy, afford to be known as a place where human rights defenders constantly face threats and harassment for their work,” said Anselmo Lee, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.
Under the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the government of Nepal has the obligation to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure, or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise to promote and protect human rights.
For more information, please contact Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, email: [email protected] or Emerlynne Gil, Programme Officer of the Human Rights Defenders Programme, telephone: +66840923575; email: [email protected].
On 2 June 2007, at around 11:52 in the evening, the WOREC office was attacked with sharp bricks by unknown men. The WOREC staff was working inside the office at the time of the attack. However, they were unable to identify the attackers because it was very dark outside.
After this incident, the staff of WOREC attempted to contact the local police authorities, who replied that they could not go to the WOREC office that evening due to security reasons. They, however, promised to inspect the area in the morning. The staff therefore went out to check the area themselves, but they were again bombarded with sharp bricks from the attackers who were hiding in the dark. The WOREC staff members were unable to sleep that night and were deeply worried about their safety. Fortunately, none of them were injured by the attack.
On 9 June 2007, the main gate of the WOREC office was dismantled and thrown in the middle of the road by unknown men. Upon further queries by the staff of WOREC, witnesses from the local community later revealed that the men who dismantled the gate in the middle of the road were the alleged perpetrators accused of raping and physically abusing Nepur Devi Yadav. WOREC staff registered the incident with the local police authorities, but reportedly, no investigation has begun.
On 14 June 2007, at around 7:30 in the morning, three men, Jitu Yadav, Ram Bharosh Yadav, and Umesh Yadav came into the office of WOREC and started verbally abusing and threatening the WOREC staff. Ram Bharosh Yadav is the alleged rapist of Nepur Devi Yadav. The three men accused the members of the staff of being “loose characters” and told them to attend a Panchayati meeting the next morning, 15 June 2007. Upon hearing of this incident, Dr. Renu Rajbhandari, Chairperson of WOREC, rushed to Siraha and met with the different party leaders of Siraha in Lahan. Dr. Renu Rajbhandari was informed during the meeting that Mr. Govinda Yadav, the past Village District Chairperson (VDC), is allegedly behind the recent attacks against WOREC. According to Dr. Renu Rajbhandari’s sources, Mr. Govinda Yadav did not like the activities of WOREC because they empower women and Dalits in the community. Mr. Govinda Yadav did not particularly like WOREC’s filing cases of rape with the local police authorities, as he believes this is contrary to the tradition of settling these cases within the VDC. Apparently, the VDC is reportedly taking money from perpetrators of rape as a form of punishment, without providing justice to the victim.
At around 1:00 in the afternoon on 14 June 2007, some 60 to 70 men with sticks marched to the WOREC office and threatened the members of the staff working there, telling them they will be killed and that they have to pack and leave the office within the next five days. The men also told the members of the staff not to leave the WOREC office, unless they leave the village entirely. Again, the women members of the staff were accused by these men of being “loose women” and were threatened with rape and physical abuse. That evening, the men flashed torch lights at the members of the staff inside the WOREC office and shouted filthy and insulting words at them. Again, the staff was unable to sleep the entire night.