Teen girl’s rape and murder sparks outcry, protest in Nepal

Hundreds of Nepalis staged a mock funeral procession in the capital Kathmandu Friday after the rape and murder of a teenage girl drew attention to a rise in sexual assault cases.

Bhagirathi Bhatta, 17, went missing on Thursday last week while she was going home from school. Her body was found a day later in a gorge near her village in Baitadi district in western Nepal.

An initial investigation by police found that she had been raped and then strangled.

At the protest in Kathmandu, demonstrators dressed in white mourning clothes carried a young woman on a bamboo stretcher to symbolize the victims who lose their lives to such violent crimes.

Others followed, calling for an end to violence against women and justice for victims as the marched.

Several people wrapped black cloth around their eyes to symbolically protest the government turning a blind eye to the spate of cases.

“We are here to challenge and pressure the government… The murderer has to be brought out to the streets, has to be punished,” protester Rekha Thapa told AFP.

“Next to none have received justice,” another protester, Anoushka Pandey, told AFP.

“If tomorrow something happens to me or somebody I love and care about, who is going to be accountable? Who is going to give us justice? For all of these answers I am here.”

In 2018, thousands poured onto the streets after the brutal rape and murder of 13-year-old schoolgirl Nirmala Pant, with one person dying and dozens injured during the protests.

The state was accused of not taking adequate action in rape cases, and a video emerged of police officers destroying evidence.

Some 2,100 rape cases were reported in Nepal last year, according to the police, up from less than 1,000 in 2015.

Activists say the higher number of cases reflect more reports of violence by women. But they say that many more assaults also go unreported in the deeply patriarchal country.

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