Remembering Laxmi Bohara - One year after and the story goes on with other WHRDs
The National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRDs) organised a small ceremony on 7 June in Maitighar Mandala to commemorate Laxmi Bohara, Women Human Rights Defender (WHRD), Kanchanpur who was murdered on the same date last year by her husband. The gathering was attended by more than 50 WHRDs representing various movement and networks such as disability, sexual minorities, land rights, squatter communities, rural women and also organisations active in creating support mechanisms for WHRDs such as Protection Desk Nepal.
Bina Bajracharya of Mahila Ekata Samaj shared that it has been a year since Laxmi Bohara was murdered on 7 June 2008 by her husband and mother in law who objected the human rights work that she was engaged in fighting for women's rights. After her suspicious murder, the state structure such as district administrative office, district police office and government hospital were neither accountable nor responsible towards this issue. The movement of the WHRDs organised a huge protest against the insensitive state structures for 24 long days of relay hunger strike, protests, rallies, sit-in protests that forced the state structures to finally detach from their rigid decisions and show their support to WHRDs.
It was then that the High Level Task Force was formed in the Office of the Prime Minister that has the mandate on the roles and responsibilities of the Task Force. They are to conduct impartial thorough investigation of Violence against Women, review and analyse the gaps and lacunas in the legal provisions with thorough recommendations to scrap such provisions and incorporate mechanisms that defend and promote the rights of women. The task force will also develop a Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Formation of a High level Commission that deals with all forms of Violence against Women consisting of nine members including three from the women's movement. This is amongst the few cases where women are able to use legal mechanisms to access justice for women. In this context it becomes imperative to all women's groups to come together and plan activities collectively. Without proper strategy and collective action, the environment to ensure that the rights of women are protected will not be possible.
As of now, the husband of Laxmi Bohara has been released on bail while the district court is engaged in collecting information from the witnesses. The investigation report of the Nepal Police has shown that Laxmi Bohara committed suicide by taking poison however another medical report has stated that she died of excessive beating and battering and it is not an unknown fact she had been a victim of domestic violence for many years. Also it has been shared by the WHRDs in Kanchanpur district that they still face threats from perpetrators from time to time regarding the respective case.
Rama Dhakal of Nepal Disabled Women's Association also shared that in the current political situation, it will be very difficult for the WHRDs to work in the districts. The suspicious murder of Uma Singh, Nirmala Thapa, threats and intimidations to Kokila Dhakal and Manica Jha are few examples where if the WHRDs challenge and advocate for women's rights, they are further subjected to multiple forms of violence from threats, harassment, mental torture to murder. The underlying truth is that when WHRDs advocate for women's rights, they are challenging the societal norms, values that are tangled in a web of patriarchy that causes structural violence. The system still remains the same.
The state mechanisms are still weak in recognising the issues of women as a priority and there is a need to lobby the High Level Task Force on the dissemination of their report and the plans of the government to address the recommendations of the report. She ended that the NAWHRD plans to organise an interaction programme with the High Level Task Force members in a week's time to get updates on the cases of WHRDs and their mandate in accomplishing the demand as put forward by the women's movement. She thanked all our friends and networks who have been supporting this movement ever since the 24 days movement and irrespective of our issues and networks, we must stand united.
The half an hour small gathering concluded with all women activists lighting candles and had a one minute silence for defenders such such as Laxmi Bohara and other WHRDs who stand in the frontline advocating for women's rights and those that have passed away.
Thank you very much for your support and solidarity and standing united on Violence Against Women.
Programme Coordinator for Women Human Rights Defenders Campaign
P. O. Box 13233