South Asia

Nepal Speaker Steps Down Following Sexual Assault Charge

Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that he had resigned to facilitate an investigation into charges against him.

Kathmandu: Following a charge of sexual assault, Krishna Bahadur Mahara has resigned on Tuesday as speaker of Nepal’s House of Representatives (HoR).

Issuing a press statement, Mahara said that he had resigned to facilitate an investigation into the charges against him. A woman, who works in the Parliament Secretariat, told the media that Mahara tried to assault her on Sunday evening.

She said that Mahara arrived at her rented apartment late in the evening and accused him of raping her. The woman said that Mahara left her apartment after she threatened to call the police.

The woman told the local media: “On Sunday evening, speaker Mahara came to my apartment with some wine and snacks. He started to drink the wine and tried to force me to, but I refused. Gradually, he started to sexually harass me. There are some scars on my body.”

Denying the charge, Mahara told local media that the woman and he are “like family members”. He said, “I have visited her residence earlier also. I did go to her on Sunday but did not assault her.”

Soon after news of the alleged assault broke on Monday, Mahara came under pressure to resign. After brief consultations with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) instructed him to resign and pave way for a fair investigation of the charges. Top NCP leaders also met on Tuesday morning to discuss the charges against Mahara.

Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the party’s spokesperson said, “To facilitate the investigation process, the party has instructed him [Mahara] to resign from the position of speaker and lawmaker.”

The main opposition Nepali Congress leader Gagan Thapa said, “The investigation process should not be affected by the political influence. There should be an impartial investigation and if found guilty, he should be convicted like ordinary people.”

Police sources said an investigation has begun into the case. “Our team has reached the woman’s apartment. They have collected wine bottles and other things in the room.”

Also read: How the Feminist Conversation Around Sexual Harassment Has Evolved

Since last year, the global MeToo campaign has encouraged women in Nepal to speak out about instances of sexual violence against them. Many women have publicly spoken about instances when they were sexually harassed for the first time.

Last year, a woman accused Keshav Sthapit, a lawmaker of province no. 3, of sexually harassing her ten years ago. However, there has not been any progress in that investigation.

Kamal Dev Bhattarai is Kathmandu-based journalist.