PARLIAMENT SPEAKER IN NEPAL RESIGNS AFTER RAPE ACCUSATION
October 1, 2019
KATHMANDU, Nepal — The speaker of Nepal’s lower house of Parliament resigned from his position on Tuesday after a parliamentary employee accused him of raping her on Sunday in her apartment in Kathmandu, the capital.
The lawmaker, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a towering figure in the country’s governing Nepal Communist Party, denied assaulting the woman and suggested that she was retaliating after being denied a job in his office.
But after the woman’s accusations became public on Monday, the party faced increasing pressure to take action.
At an emergency meeting on Tuesday, party leaders including Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli ordered Mr. Mahara to step down, and he did so shortly thereafter. He will retain his seat in Parliament.
“Since various media outlets raised serious questions regarding my character, I hereby resign from my position on moral grounds to ease an independent, free and fair investigation until the investigation process completes,” Mr. Mahara said in a written statement.
Such swift action is unusual in Nepal, where the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment has struggled to gain ground.
The Nepali news site Hamrakura.com published an interview with the accuser on Monday, which led to calls by opposition parties and the public for an independent investigation of her claims and demands that Mr. Mahara step aside at least temporarily.
According to local news accounts, the woman said that Mr. Mahara had tried unsuccessfully for years to force himself upon her. She said that on Sunday evening, when her husband was away, Mr. Mahara came to her apartment with whiskey and snacks. As his security guards waited outside, she said, he forced her to drink liquor and then raped her. When she tried to resist, she said, he beat her.
The woman did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Mr. Mahara, a former Maoist rebel leader who served as a government minister multiple times, has been an important leader in Nepalese politics. He led the team of Maoist negotiators who cut a deal with the government in 2006 to end the insurgency and bring the Maoists into mainstream politics.
The police said they had started an investigation into the accusations against Mr. Mahara.
“He is already under our scrutiny,” said Uttam Raj Subedi, a senior police official in Kathmandu. “We have recovered some objects from her apartment.”
Mr. Subedi said the police would take Mr. Mahara into custody once the victim formally lodged a complaint.
Encouraged by the global #MeToo movement, some Nepali victims of sexual harassment and abuse have spoken out against alleged perpetrators in the past year. The accused have included politicians, academics and theater artists. None of the accused men have been charged.
Women’s rights advocates campaigning for the prosecution of sexual harassment cases applauded Mr. Mahara’s resignation. But some said they worried about the accuser’s well-being in such a high-profile case.
“His immediate resignation is a good move,” said Mohna Ansari, a member of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission.
“Victims’ protection is equally important, since the accused is such a powerful politician,” she said. “We are worried about that.”
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