Two women accuse Mayor Sthapit of sexual misconduct: Ripples of #MeToo in Nepal

KATHMANDU: Tanushree Dutta’s ‘second round’ of allegations against Nana Patekar formally launched the #MeToo movement in India, a movement which had taken the masks off of faces of Hollywood biggies like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, among others, last year.

Victims’ accounts of their experiences stirred Indian social media with big names such as MJ Akbar, Suhel Seth, Chetan Bhagat, Sajid Khan, Vinod Dua, Anu Malik, et al, being revealed as alleged harrassers. Meanwhile, many in Nepal wondered if survivors would share their experiences, giving way to a similar movement here.

In the wake of budding #MeToo conversations, a few Nepali women exhibited courage to share their experiences on social media. Amid these, two women have accused two-time Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Keshav Sthapit of sexual harassment.

A former employee of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, Rashmila Prajapati said that she was terminated from service, without any explanation, for refusing the then Mayor’s advances.

“The mayor, during his first term, repeatedly tried to lure me into spending ‘quality time’ with him to discuss work and my promotion, which I always rejected,” stated Prajapati.

Rashmila recalls one horrid experience about the Mayor calling her at her Saturday job at a FM station asking her to come down where he was waiting for her in a car. “He said he wanted to discuss an urgent topic but at a nearby resort. I refused and confronted him the next day.”

Rashmila alleges that Sthapit’s first official decision after assuming office during his second tenure was to issue her termination letter. She said it was an act of revenge for refusing to get exploited.

“It was on papers that I was let go on corruption charges but there should have been a reason on my termination letter and supporting evidence if that was the case,” Rashmila argued.

This is not the first time that Prajapati has talked about Sthapit’s misconduct. She had written about her experience on online portals two years ago.

The news surfaced, again, after Prajapati posted a status on Facebook alleging Sthapit of misconduct.

According to Prajapati, she was too scared to come out with her experiences against a man of power in the past as she thought somebody who can take away her job as an act of revenge, is also capable of 'other' things.

However, the recent #MeToo conversations have encouraged her to re-share her story in hopes of holding the harasser accountable.

Here’s the link to Prajapati’s blog where she talks about how the ex-Mayor tried to 'convince' her, harassed and eventually terminated her from service, in detail.

On being asked about her response to news of Sthapit taking legal measure against what he is calling a defamatory act, Prajapati told THT Online, “I will have to wait till he takes the matter to court. I would only know then about how I would respond.”

Likewise, a slam poet and a former correspondent with Republica National Daily, Ujjwala Maharjan also accused Sthapit of misconduct through a Facebook post.

“What does it mean when people you meet for one interview for a story you are doing as a journalist, start calling you late at night, not for professional reasons, but to assure you that you are now friends and that you could and should reach out to them anytime you want?” Ujjwala wrote on October 19, a few days after Rashmila Prajapati.

“But seriously, what did that mean, Keshav Sthapit?” asks Ujjwala.

“I’m in talks with my confidential team. Will file a report on Friday.”

Meanwhile, the accused, former Mayor of Kathmandu and current Minister in Province 3 Federal government, Keshav Sthapit has said that both the accusations leveled at him are baseless.

“Rashmila Prajapati was a temporary employee at KMC and I did not even know her really well,” said Sthapit.

“The fact is, an action was taken against her for misappropriation. She had issues with the people working at the KMC. There was a movement of sorts involving scores of employees against her asking her to resign because of her ways. She is taking that out against me now,” alleged Sthapit.

“Also, regarding that FM station accusation. I have been to that FM station thrice, twice for official purpose and once to pick my son who also worked there. I was not aware if anybody else worked there or not,” he elaborated.

“Just because she is a woman, she cannot go about saying whatever she feels like. I also have a social circle and my social links. I can also use them,” an agitated Sthapit said.

We asked the ex-mayor about Ujjwala Maharjan’s accusation. In response, he said that he hardly knows anyone by that name and that he is not even sure if there was an interview as such ever. However, a link of Sthapit’s interview conducted by Maharjan for a national daily was revealed by another online news portal, setopati, earlier today.

Following his 'clarifications', THT quizzed the Province 3 minister if he categorically denies these allegations, to which he responded, "I would deny them if they were even near-true. How can I deny something which never happened."

In a conversation held earlier today, Sthapit had shared that he would go to the police today (October 23) to file a report and would eventually take other legal measures.

However, when THT Online contacted him later in the evening to assess the progress, Sthapit said, “I am in consultation with my confidential team of legal experts, including some police personnel. Since I am not aware of the nitty-gritties of cyber-crime laws, I need some expert advice before I take any step.”

“I may file a police report on Friday,” said Sthapit.

READ ALSO: Keshav Sthapit levels counter accusations; Ramila Prajapati refutes, challenges Sthapit to a public debate