The rape and murder of a teenager provoked unprecedented protests in conservative Nepal, but activists say a #MeToo reckoning such as that unfolding in neighboring India remains a distant prospect.
Thousands poured onto the streets after 13-year-old Nirmala Pant’s body was discovered in July angered by allegations that the police were protecting the perpetrators.
Two hashtags — #JusticeForNirmala and #RageAgainstRape — have become the rallying cries for protesters fed up with Nepal’s woeful record of prosecuting cases of violence against women, but #MeToo has been largely absent from the ongoing debate.
Those fighting for change say women still struggle to speak out against their abusers in Nepal.
“I would love a society where you can say #MeToo,” women’s rights activist Hima Bista said.
Over the past few weeks the #MeToo movement in neighboring India has gathered pace, a year after the hashtag first went viral.
The allegations by Bollywood star Tanushree Dutta against a fellow actor emboldened a wave of women in India to tell their own stories.
Former Indian minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar resigned this month after at least 20 women accused him of sexual harassment. A prominent Bollywood director was also sacked over similar allegations.
The shock waves have not gone unnoticed in Nepal, which shares strong cultural and religious ties with its influential neighbor.
“You see a slight breeze come through,” Bista said of the ripple effect from India.
In the past two weeks, a handful of women have gone public with #MeToo stories in Nepal, including two accusing former Kathmandu mayor Keshav Sthapit of abusing his power.
“Nepal also has serial predators who have been misusing their powers and positions,” wrote Rashmila Prajapati, who says she lost her job in Sthapit’s office 15 years ago after she rejected his sexual advances.
Sthapit has denied the allegations, describing them as “a rape of men’s rights” in an interview with the Kathmandu Post.
However, for most women in Nepal, particularly those in conservative rural communities, speaking out is not an option, said Mohna Ansari, a member of the Nepalese National Human Rights Commission.
She is supporting two rape victims who brought their cases to court — a rare achievement in itself — but have been driven from their communities by gossip, a byproduct of speaking out about sexual violence.
“They are now both hiding in a shelter. The stigma and victim blaming is still too strong in our society,” Ansari said.
Change needs to come from the top, but the government’s response to Pant’s killing, the botched investigation and the ensuing protests has invoked outrage and derision.
The parliament passed a ban on pornography saying it would curb violence against women, while the Nepalese home minister blamed rape on capitalism.
He also said that the #RageAgainstRape movement was a conspiracy aimed at toppling Nepal’s communist-led government.
There have been small signs of progress: Official figures show 479 complaints of rape and attempted rape were made from July to September this year — more than the total number of cases filed between 2008 and 2009.
In 2016 and last year, 1,131 rapes were reported to police, but only a tiny fraction ended up in court.
Sexual violence is making news too. An acid attack on two sisters by a jilted suitor late last month and the gang rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl dominated headlines for days.
However, activists say the sensationalist coverage and gratuitous detail paints women as weak victims, undermining their ability to call out their abusers.
“Once we address the culture, then you have space for #MeToo,” Bista said.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses