Sex before marriage: A social taboo, not an unlawful act
KATHMANDU, Sept 6: There’s a divergence between the way the society perceives sex before marriage and the way the youth look at this issue. This is evident from the anger demonstrated by the general youth on social networking platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, against the recent raids by the police in the various hotel rooms. Even though there was no illegal sexual activity going on, the rights of the people were violated to some extent, and the media, too, showed no mercy over the issue.
There are no two views about prostitution and the law in Nepal. It is illegal.
“Also, if any woman under the age of 16 is found engaging in sexual activities, even with her consent, then that amounts to rape,” states advocate Semanta Dahal. “Hence, we can imply that it’s not against the law for women above this age to practice sex, given she has her full consent,” says Dahal.
However, no such law has been formulated for men. “If sex between both the parties is consensual, practiced with safe measures and after careful considerations, then there’s no harm in that,” he adds.
Ask the young, and most of them are of the view that sex before marriage is acceptable. Sumit [some names are changed for obvious reasons], 21, a student of computer engineering, claims that sex is the basic right of humans, even for the young who aren’t married.
“However, they should be of a certain acceptable age. I think if both the girl and the boy are above the age of 18 and have agreed to have sex, then there’s no problem in that,” states Sumit.
Ramila, 19, is of the same view. “Yes, our society may not allow us to indulge in such activities pre-marriage but if the couple is well over the age of 18, a legally recognized adult at that point, and have mutually decided to stay over at a hotel, then what’s it to them?” she questions. “However, sex is very intimate, and this intimacy should be shared with someone you trust fully,” she adds.
Talking about the act of the police raiding hotel rooms, Ramila says that in a way, it’s justifiable when it comes to curbing sexual crimes.
“Police raiding hotels is good in the sense that they can track down prostitution and rape. But then, raiding hotels to catch young lovers is something I don’t agree with,” says she who shares that she has, in the past, booked a hotel room to spend the night with her boyfriend.
She adds that though the whole experience was exciting, it was also scary at the same time. She was conscious about what other people would think and hence took some precautions.
“When we called to book a room, we made sure that our voice sounded adult-like and when we went to the hotel, we saw to it that we were dressed and acted like adults. As we were registering, the hotel manager asked for our ID proofs. Neither of us knew why it was asked for, and our hearts literally skipped a beat!” says Ramila.
She also admits that she felt uneasy while going in and coming out of the room. “It was like people were looking at us with questioning eyes. But again, that could’ve been just my imagination,” she says.
Prashant, 20, is another young lad with similar views. “It’s very hard for young couples to spend time together in our society. So it’s only natural that they go to hotels and lodges,” says he who believes that it’s unnecessary for the law to take action against that.
“Even if actions are taken, it can’t be stopped,” he adds that young people will always find a way. “I’ve experienced police interference during a similar case. But at that time, the fault was entirely mine. I indulged in public display of affection and was caught by the police but somehow I talked out of it,” he shares. “I know it was wrong. I wouldn’t have done that if it was okay to invite my girlfriend home,” he says.
When asked about why he thinks the police took the step, Prashant thinks, “There could be many reasons. Perhaps they were checking for prostitution. It could also be that they were trying to prove that they are efficient since the police have faced a lot of criticisms from the public that they’ve not been doing their jobs properly.”
Ramila, on the other hand, believes that the intention of the police was to act against prostitution. “But I don’t understand how their whole focus shifted,” she says.
Speaking about the issue, Jaya Bahadur Chand, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Range of Kathmandu, says that the teams are sent out to hotels and other such places in order to check on actions of social vices.
“These raids take place in cases when we receive information from the public. We ourselves also carry these investigations for security purposes,” informs SSP Chand. “If individuals are found in prostitution, which is strictly against the law, we take them into custody. In other cases, we investigate further. We bring them to the respective police ranges and look into the matter. We call families and friends, check their IDs, look into their past records and take other similar measures to make sure that they haven’t been involved in illegal sexual activities,” says Chand.
According to him, such individuals aren’t charged of committing crime. “Upon making sure that the couples have intentions of getting married, they are let free,” Chand adds.
Sumit, Prashant and Ramila strongly emphasize that there has been a violation of the rights to privacy. On this matter, advocate Dahal says, “The Right to Privacy has been mentioned under Article 28 in our Constitution. This Article protects documents, property, people and their reputation as well. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has also been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Both these documents are against unlawful interference of the state.”
However, Dahal says that the Right to Privacy is not absolute. “On reasonable grounds, there should be interference from the state. However, the recent scenario doesn’t seem to fall under this protocol,” he adds. “There’s a very ad hoc law from the government when it comes to this issue.”
Dahal further explains that though a hotel is considered by law a public space, once individuals book their own rooms, however, it becomes the individuals’ private space.
“Thus, any act of knocking on people’s doors in hotel rooms without the permission from the hotel management and its tenants and without proof of unlawful activities going on is a violation of people’s privacy,” says Dahal.
If in cases of such invalid intervention, the public have the right to place an appeal to the Supreme Court on the basis of their privacy being violated.
“However, one must consider how beneficial that would be for them,” he says, suggesting that the best way to tackle situations such as this is to talk to the police comprehensively and demand that a reasonable cause for their interference be provided.