The speaker of Nepal’s lower house of Parliament, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, stepped down from his position on Tuesday after a parliamentary employee accused him of raping her on Sunday in her own apartment.

The lawmaker, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, a prominent figure within the country’s governing Nepal Communist Party, denied assaulting the woman who accused him and suggested she was retaliating after being denied a job in his office. After the woman’s accusations went public on Monday, however, his party faced pressure to take action. On Tuesday, Communist Party leaders including Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli held an emergency meeting and ordered Mahara to step down, and he did so shortly thereafter.

“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,” Mahara said in a written statement. He will, however, retain his seat in parliament.

The Nepali news site Hamrakura.com published an interview with the accuser on Monday, which is what led to calls by opposition parties and the public for an independent investigation of her claims. According to local news reports, the woman said that Mahara had tried unsuccessfully for years to force himself upon her. She said that on Sunday night, he came to her apartment with alcohol, and as his guards waited outside, he forced her to drink and then raped her, beating her when she tried to resist him.

“I had not thought it would come to this. He forced himself [on me]…He left after I said I will call the police,” she said in the interview.

The woman also showed apparent bruises on her arms, hands and feet. The police said they have started an investigation into the accusations against Mahara, and that they will take him into custody once the survivor formally issues a complaint.

“He is already under our scrutiny,” said Uttam Raj Subedi, a senior police official in Kathmandu, the country’s capital. “We have recovered some objects from her apartment.”

Encouraged by the international #MeToo movement, some Nepali survivors of sexual assault and rape have spoken out against alleged perpetrators within the past year. But activists say many still go unreported in the deeply patriarchal Nepal. The accused include politicians, theater artists and academics, and none have been charged.

Women’s rights activists pushing for the prosecution of sexual abuse cases celebrated Mahara’s resignation, but some have expressed worry for the survivor’s well-being considering it is such a high-profile case.

“His immediate resignation is a good move,” said Mohna Ansari, a member of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission. “Victim’s protection is equally important, since the accused is such a powerful politician. We are worried about that.”

Sources: NY Times 10/1/19; Aljazeera 10/1/19

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