One teenage boy has been killed and dozens were injured in west Nepal when police opened fire on protesters demanding action over the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl, according to officials.
Angry crowds took to the streets in the city of Mahendranagar on Friday, accusing police of protecting the person responsible for the brutal crime.
Police officer Krishna Raj Ojha told AFP news agency on Saturday that 17-year-old Sani Khuna was killed after officers fired shots “to contain the violent protest”.
According to the Kathmandu Post, Khuna died while being taken to hospital for treatment.
The publication said that several other protesters, as well as police personnel, were injured in the clashes.
Police said an indefinite curfew has been imposed in the area, near the border with India’s Uttarakhand state.
Schoolgirl Nirmala Panta went missing in late July and her body was found the following day in a sugar-cane field.
Anger boiled over after police arrested a man who reportedly has severe learning difficulties, and whom protesters say is a scapegoat allowing officers to shield the real culprit.
The victim’s family have also accused police of failing to take action over her death.
“The state has not taken the cases of rape and violence against women seriously,” women’s rights activist Hima Bista told AFP.
“Protection is being provided to the rape-accused time and again,” she added.
Further rallies are planned for Saturday across Nepal. In the capital, Kathmandu, around 1,500 people staged a silent protest under a heavy police presence, AFP reported.
Rape is not just a women's issue. It's about man who stop behaving like human beings & start behaving like animal. In an average, 1 women/girl are victimized of rape each day in Nepal #JusticeforNirmala #SaveOurGirls 🚺 #SaveNepal #PunishedRapist #WakeUpOliGovernment pic.twitter.com/bwNwp4c0xe
— SMRITI DHUNGANA (@aesmriti) August 23, 2018
The hashtags #RageAgainstRape and #JusticeForNirmala were also trending on Twitter.
“The so-called democratic government couldn’t give justice to the rape and murder victim instead they killed an innocent boy,” Twitter user Sunel GC posted.
There were 1,480 reported rapes in Nepal last year, according to recently released police data, almost double the number reported in 2016.
Activists say the rise is due to more women reporting violence to the police, but also say many more still go unreported in deeply patriarchal Nepal.