By Sampada Anuranjanee Khatiwada, Kathmandu, Aug. 25: Whenever we go to health professionals for our health check-up, we tend to build an inter-personal trust with them.
But should this be the case every time? The therapists or doctors we visit might turn the tables and use their profession to perpetuate an offence. Here’s an unfortunate but all too real example:
Angel Sharma (name changed), 23, went to an acupressure therapist, a crippled man in late 50s (name withheld), with the hope of improving her eye-sight.
She came to know about the therapist from her aunt. According to her aunt, the therapist had improved her 14 year old cousin’s eye-sight.
On her first appointment, she was told that the ‘acu-points’ for the therapy were located at her nipple and below the navel and the therapy would be done by an assistant, who was a lady.
When she agreed to it, the assistant carried out the therapy, and the pressure was given to the acu-points with a needle.
The therapist then asked her whether she had felt a mild flick in her body. To her surprise, she did feel the flick and it induced her to believe in the treatment.
For the sake of her eye-sight, she started to visit the therapist on a weekly basis.
“The therapist mostly used to treat the children and teenagers,” said Sharma, while talking to TRN. “He assured that his treatment was doing wonders to those children.”
One day when she had gone to the therapist for follow-up, he asked her to visit him again on Sunday at 2:00 P.M. She went to visit the doctor as scheduled. She found only the doctor and his wife at the clinic.
“It was unusual to see the clinic empty,” Sharma said. “But I had built up a trust with my therapist and his wife was also there, so I felt safe.”
When the therapist began the treatment, he told me to open my pants, said Sharma. “I denied. The therapist, while pressuring my acu-point below the navel went a little lower and started touching my vaginal area inappropriately.
“The therapy that day was very different and since I blindly believed whatever he was saying, I didn’t realise that I was being harassed.”
Sharma said she decided to let go the incident and stop visiting the therapist.
But when she told her family members about what had happened at the clinic, all of her family members boiled up with anger.
“My family’s reaction prompted me to take an action against him. If an educated person like me remained silent, then professionals like him would be motivated to harass more innocent girls and children,” she added.
Sharma, along with her family, went to the therapist on the very next day. The therapist was interrogated by her family members. He was even asked to show the registration certificate of the clinic and his license. He failed to show his credentials.
Nepal Health Professional Council Act 2053 requires clinics to be registered under the Council.
“On the following morning, the therapist and his wife started calling me for a compromise,” said Sharma. “He even offered me some money so that I wouldn’t disclose the incident to anyone.”
Sharma filed a First Information Report (F.I.R.) against the therapist at Metropolitan Police Station, Lalitpur. The police arrested the accused on 7th August 2019.
The therapist had initially denied all accusations. Later, he claimed he had developed the method of treatment on his own, and it was actually effective among young people.
“Upon being asked about the credibility of the method and documents related to it, by the police, he couldn’t show any,” said Sharma.
The therapist admitted the accusations when Sharma’s family told him that they had recorded whatever he had said during their previous visit to the clinic.
The case is going on in the Lalitpur District Court.
Section 224 of the Muluki Criminal (Code) Act, 2074 has prohibited sexual abuse of any
kind and it also says that any person convicted of sexual abuse would be imprisoned for up to three years and fined up to Rs. 30,000.
“One of the acu-points in human body does exist below the navel but not in vaginal area,” said an acupressure therapist, requesting anonymity. “A fine line exists between therapy and harassment and it is for the court to decide whether or not the accused has crossed that line.”
“In case of doctors, our code of conduct forbids solitary examination of female patients,” said Dr. Sudan Dhakal, a neurosurgeon. “To avert incidents of this nature, there must be a nurse or a female staff during examination.”
“We time and again get to hear incidents like these. The only way to prevent sexual harassment by health professionals is to avoid solitary examination of patients,” said Dhakal.
“I believe there are many girls like me, who have been harassed by professionals like doctors, therapists, teachers or even their relatives,” said Sharma.
“We must be vocal about it in order to bring the perpetrators under the purview of law and to prevent sexual abuse of all kinds,” she added.
(The Metropolitan Police Station, Lalitpur has not disclosed the name of the clinic and the therapist due to privacy constraints.)