#MeToo in Nepal: A rape case in the beauty pageant industry is exposed after 8 years

rape victim domestic violence violence against women gender-based violence
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A video that was published on TikTok has gone viral on social media since Wednesday. A girl, who took part in a beauty pageant in 2014, has revealed the harrowing moment when the pageant organiser raped her multiple times.

Here is what you need to know about the incident, the video, and the reactions that have emerged now.

The incident

In a 20-part video series she posted on TikTok, she says the organiser drugged her, raped her and blackmailed her. The girl was only 16 at the time of the incident.

The incident took place in 2014 after the pageant was held. The organiser called her to the event’s success party that was taking place at Everest Hotel. It was there that she says that she was first raped.

“He called me to attend the success party, but there was no one there. He asked me to wait,” she says in the video.

After a while, a waiter came up to her and gave her lemonade as a welcome drink. After drinking it, she says she felt dizzy. She asked the organiser if she could go home, but he told her she had to stay because she was a winner.

“I said I wasn’t feeling well, but he told me that I could stay in a room at the hotel that he’d book for girls who might get drunk at the party. I was naïve enough to go. What happened then changed my life,” she says.

After she went to the room, she passed out. She did not have consciousness. Whenever she did, she saw the organiser having sex with her.

“It’s too painful to remember,” she says. “When I gained consciousness, it was early in the morning. I yelled and cried when I saw both of us naked. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened.”

The organiser then told her that he had kept Rs 20,000 in her bag and told her that he had sex with her because she wanted money. He put the blame on her, a 16-year-old minor, she says.

“I was shaken to the core. I couldn’t fathom that such a thing could happen to me. I was a confident, educated girl. Yet I was raped,” she says.

Before she left the room, the alleged rapist blackmailed her too. He told her that he had pictures of her that he would make public if she leaked what happened to anyone.

“I couldn’t share what happened to me with anyone. After that day, he kept calling me for the next six months. Out of fear, I went and he raped me every time,” she says.

The incident broke her to the extent that she got into depression.

“I was traumatised,” she says.

The aftermath

She then looked out for help, but no one listened to her. She says she had idolised Malvika Subba and hence asked her for help. Subba had been the event’s choreographer and was the face of the feminist movement in Nepal.

“She told me it was my problem that I got raped and hung up. It shattered me,” she adds.

Following that, she went through a lot. Her mental health took a battering as she battled depression. She looked for an escape, but all she found were men who either demeaned her or took advantage of her.

She told a few people about this, who asked her to go to the police, but Nepal’s law meant she could not. The statute of limitations for rape in Nepal is one year, which means you can only file a complaint within one year.

Her mental health further deteriorated. She could not find a proper therapist. The incident broke her entire well-being to the point a few months ago, she attempted to kill herself to end the suffering she was going through. But, she survived and following that she decided to speak out so others would not be victimised as she did.

Malvika Subba’s take

Following the release of the videos, Malvika Subba has spoken up. She says she was not aware of the laws of statutory rape or sexual grooming or fully understood the complexities of consent.

Subba came under a lot of criticism on social media for turning a blind eye to this incident. People questioned her how she could have done so when she claims to be a feminist and takes up almost all the space in the feminist movement.

In reply, Subba, on Thursday, released a statement and apologised to the girl and promised that she would leave all platforms on feminism and sexual violence.

“I made a mistake and I admit it. But, I will not repeat it and will fight for people like her,” she writes on Instagram.

Subba claims that she was going through a mental breakdown of her own and did not want to do anything that affected her mental peace.

“But, I was wrong. I should have held her hand, embraced her and been there for her. I failed her and I failed all of you,” she writes.

The photographer’s take

The lady mentions in the video that she was first called by the alleged abuser for a photo session and “a reputed online media house’s photographer” shot her pictures. She says the photographer was with the alleged abuser during a later incident also.

Whereas she has refrained from mentioning the photojournalist’s name, social media users have pointed at former Onlinekhabar journalist Shreedhar Poudel.

Following that, Poudel also resorted to his Facebook account to accept that he indeed captured her photos as he was contracted by the alleged abuser, which he names Manoj Pandey.

Poudel says he was called again by Pandey’s assistant to witness an event, in which he learned Pandey raped her. He says he did leave the spot immediately after learning of the incident.

Photographer Poudel says he was not aware of the continuous abuse that she had to survive. Saying he was not involved in the abuse in any way, he says he is ready to cooperate with her in the legal process.

He has appealed to the people to not victimise him in any way.

What next?

As the video has gone viral on social media, Nepal Police says it is aware of the incident. Nepal police’s spokesperson SSP Bishnu Kumar KC, however, says the law-enforcing body can only do something if a formal complaint is registered.

“We are aware of this, but they need to come to us through a formal channel. We will investigate the case accordingly if she comes to us accordingly,” says KC.

Rights activist and lawyer Mohna Ansari agrees the statute of limitations for rape in Nepal is one year. But she says this is a different case because the girl was held hostage and abused repetitively.

“The police can find new details during its investigation and can punish those responsibly,” says Ansari. “Incidents like these shouldn’t have a set time to report the incidents. This is something that’s been talked of internationally. We should start a practice of listening to the survivor.”

She says the police need to reach out to the survivor and investigate the case.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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