Women’s rights activist attacked and accused of being a witch

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On 24th September 2017, prominent women's rights activist, Rajkumari Upadhaya, was assaulted in Birgunj, southern Nepal. After being woken up at around 1:00am by neighbours banging on her front door, Upadhaya was set upon by a mob in her apartment. The group of neighbours led by a local shaman, Sarita Shrestha, accused Updadhaya of being a witch and blamed her for making members of the local community ill. Upadhaya was attacked for over three hours during which the mob tortured Upadhaya by slapping her, pouring oil in her ears and forcing her to confess of witchcraft. Upadhaya later commented on the attack, saying that: 

“I had never imagined such a thing could ever happen to me. They took me under control for about three hours and tortured me”.

As a women's rights activist and chair of the District Women's Rights Forum, Upadhaya has gained recognition in the local area as a result of her efforts to combat domestic violence and the persecution of women for being witches, as well as the promotion of gender equality in Nepali society. The activist was greatly affected by the attack. In the video below, Upadhaya relates the horrific experience.

Nepali security forces arrived at Upadhaya's apartment at around 4:00am, after her family members had raised the alarm and detained six of the attackers, including Bhogendra Karki, a member of the Nepali armed police. While an investigation into the attack is ongoing, CIVICUS Monitor research partner - Asia Human Rights Commission - has urged Nepali authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the assault. The Commission has also warned that the complicity of a police officer in the attack should not compromise the integrity of the investigation or any subsequent prosecution of perpetrators.