Nepalis are furious and are demanding action after rape allegations against House SpeakerKrishna Bahadur Mahara has denied all allegations, calling it an attempt to sabotage his image.
Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the House of Representatives Speaker, has been accused of rape by a woman who works at the Parliament.
According to HamraKura.com, which first broke the story, the woman accused Mahara of raping her at her Tinkune apartment on Sunday. In her testimony to the website, she describes in detail how Mahara came drunk to her apartment and forced himself violently on her, leaving scratch marks on her body. It was only when he left that she called the police, who according to the woman, came and took photos of the place, and spoke with her about the incident.
Following the news about the accusation, the office of the Speaker had issued a statement denying them, calling it an attempt “to sabotage the Speaker’s character.” But on Tuesday, after a widespread call for an investigation into the allegations, the ruling Nepal Communist Party has called a secretariat meeting to discuss the issue. The meeting, which is being attended by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other top leaders is expected to discuss potential resignation of the Speaker.
In her interview with Hamra Kura, the woman had said she messaged and called Nepal Communist Party leaders Pampha Bhusal and Onsari Gharti Magar after the incident on Sunday to seek help. But on Tuesday, Bhusal told the Post the woman was lying.
“How can she lie like this? I haven’t received any phone calls or messages from her and I do not know her personally,” Bhusal told the Post, adding that she had heard about the allegations against Mahara from media reports. Onsari Gharti Magar, the former Speaker, couldn’t be reached for a response.
But Bhusal was quick to add that the allegations need to be investigated and the truth and facts should prevail.
After the news made national headlines, Nepalis on social media have been posting pleas to the authorities, asking them not to take the allegations lightly and investigate Mahara as they would any other member of the public.
“When regular people are “accused”, they are immediately taken into custody and investigations start, isn’t it?” one Twitter user wrote.
“Is the police only supposed to take pictures of the crime scene? Aren't they supposed to collect testimony and start an investigation right away?” another person said. “Just because the woman hasn’t filed a complaint doesn’t mean the legal process shouldn’t move forward. When a person is murdered do they wait for the deceased to complain or start investigating based on the information of the incident.”
Speaking to Kantipur Daily, opposition Congress leader Gagan Thapa also said that issuing a statement wasn’t enough and that Mahara should be investigated like anyone else would.
“What would have happened if someone else was accused of rape? The Speaker needs to be investigated according to the laws,” he said.
Some have demanded the resignation of the speaker, saying he should pave the way for a fair investigation soon.
Although this is not the first instance of a woman coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment, Monday’s incident could be the first where a woman has named a powerful man of raping her, spoken to the media immediately, and reached out to the police.
In the past year, powerful men from Nepal’s politics, academia and theatre have been accused of sexual misconduct, and almost all of them faced no repercussions for their actions. But none of the allegations has led to so much social media rage like the one against Mahara, and many people on Twitter, acknowledging the gravity of the allegations have also raised security concerns for the woman.
“In a country, where victim-blaming is prevalent, the woman who has accused the speaker will be questioned again and again. She might get threats, too,” a Twitter user wrote.
Others have also expressed concerns for the woman’s safety.
“Based on the details of the incident, there is plenty of room to be suspicious of him,” another user said. “But given how the system works in Nepal, I can only hope for the safety of the woman.”
— Less than a year later, Nepal's men of MeToo are back to work
— Is Nepal's MeToo finally taking off?
— Fed up by harassment, women are going online to share their stories