Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors - Equality Now

Sexual Violence in South Asia: Legal and Other Barriers to Justice for Survivors

Protection gaps in rape laws and barriers to accessing justice continue to lead to effective denial of justice for survivors of sexual violence in South Asia. Recent and widespread public protests in response to high profile rape cases in the region have shone a spotlight on the need for action.

This report, jointly authored by Equality Now and Dignity Alliance International, calls on the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka to take urgent action to address sexual violence and improve access to justice for survivors.


Analysis of laws, policies, and practices related to sexual violence, alongside focus groups and in depth discussions with survivors, activists, and lawyers actively engaging with survivors of sexual violence, found that rape laws across the six South Asian countries studied effectively deny justice to survivors of sexual violence due to protection gaps in the laws. The report also uncovered severe barriers to accessing justice and implementation gaps within the criminal justice system.

We're calling for comprehensive action from governments to holistically address sexual violence and intersecting discrimination faced by women and girls across the region to live up to their commitments to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls. Specifically, the governments of the six South Asian countries must: 

  • address protection gaps in the law 
  • improve police responses to cases of sexual violence
  • ensure survivor-friendly medical examinations in rape cases
  • improve prosecution procedures and trials of sexual offenses
  • design and fund holistic interventions to improve access to justice for survivors




"I often wonder if my life would be different if I was a Bangali woman, not a marginalized Adivasi woman. I see young people from my community being rejected from jobs just because of their identity, our women and girls are raped every day and the culprits walk around with impunity." - Prabha, Bangladesh

Read the perspectives of survivors across South Asia 

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