After a decade-long conflict (1996 – 2006), Nepal changed in many ways, and everyone moved on, but 57-year-old Sarita Damai (Name Changed) continues to suffer from social and legal injustice, showing signs of trauma.
Sarita has been through a lot in her life; she lost her mother when she was two years old. She was married at the age of 13 after being raised by her grandma. Leading to a lack of education, skills, and adolescent marriage, she gave birth to 13 children, just four of whom lived. However, as time passed and she struggled with her husband to make ends meet, she became a lady enjoying a joyful life with her husband and four children.
Her fateful days began with the outbreak of an armed conflict between the Nepalese government and the Moist. During 2001, Maoists would barge into their home and consume whatever food they could find, and the army would punish them for feeding Maoists. If they did not support any of the group, they would have been verbally, physically, and sexually abused by both sides of the conflict. One evening, the People’s Liberation Army was making garments in her home. When the army learned about it, they arrived and searched the residence. At the same moment, they began hitting everyone around them, including Sarita, who was raped by one of the Army men. Then the family was carried out and the house was set on fire, the incident took a horrific turn.
Sarita recalls the day saying, “I stood in front of my burning house, clutching wailing children and a wounded husband, being raped and helpless to move my body,”. Sarita’s husband began drinking and used to characterize the rape occurrence as Sarita’s purposeful desire to sleep with Army Men, thus the misery continued. He physically and verbally abused her. Her husband became ill as a result of his drinking habits, and after spending lots of money on medicine to treat his depression, he committed suicide. Losing her husband and caring for her children was an excruciating ordeal as her community began to blame her.
However, after dealing with social injustice and seeking legal justice, she approached WOREC, and after 12 sessions of counseling, she shown some progress. But, like thousands of other conflict survivor women, she is left behind since the government still lacks a clear process for the treatment and medico-legal examination of rape survivors in order to offer therapeutic care and secure any possible medical evidence in a timely way.
She is now occupied with her cattle, offered by WOREC looking at her the mental stability. However, she occasionally collapses, and social discrimination adds to her suffering. As the conflict came to an end, many women, like Sarita, are living in agony with little chance of justice.
Since 2016, AEIN supports the project “From survivors to change makers: Empower the survivors of conflict and different forms of violence for their access to justice, political participation and economic wellbeing in Rukum (West) district, Nepal”