October 30, 2018

Untold Stories of Sexual Harassment: #MeToo

Untold Stories of Sexual Harassment: #MeToo

The #MeToo is a social media movement which has been gaining a worldwide momentum from the past couple of years. In Nepal, women and girls are coming forward with their own stories of sexual harassment. From the nationwide support for the rape and murder victim, Nirmala Pant and the social media support for #JusticeForNirmala, it is quite clear that the #MeToo movement in Nepal is here to stay.  However, there are still hundreds of thousands of women in Nepal who haven’t had the opportunity to share their stories of sexual harassment; most women fear their lives and others are too afraid of their stories backfiring. 

A form posted on Facebook allowed women of all ages to share their stories anonymously. This led to over 100 responses being submitted within the week of the post. Women from all over Nepal came forward with their stories of sexual harassment. Surprisingly their stories ranged from harassment incidents with close family members, teachers, tutors to even strangers on public transportation.

A 16- year old girl from Kathmandu recounts an incident where a middle-aged man unzipped his pants and started rubbing his genitals on the back of her leg. She says, “I screamed to get him off me and once noticed, he hurriedly zipped his pants and got off the bus. No one said anything about it”.

 Another 17-year old girl sent a story about a middle-aged man on a microbus placing his hand on her lower back. She shared her sorrows of being unable to speak up about the incident and recalls crying silently until her assaulter got off the vehicle. 

Another recurring story of sexual harassment involved family members who took advantage of their younger cousins and nieces. A 23-year old shares her sexual harassment story about a male cousin who started taking advantage of her when she was 8-year old. She says that at that age, she didn’t understand what he was doing and was unable to say anything about it. She feared that sharing the incident with a third person would result in heinous acts (more than just molesting her) whenever the evil cousin found her alone. 

A 29-year old sent in a story about a good family friend who caressed her chest and spoke to her inappropriately. She responded as of why she never spoke up about the recurring incident: She would be the one to take blame over the assaulter. She said that she was an independent girl who dressed up as she wished. Her family would blame her (dressing sense) for provoking the “uncle”. This was a sentiment that many of the responders shared; they all feared of being blamed instead of getting the support to overcome such sick mentality.  Although many of the incidents that were sent in recounted singular incidents, majority of them involved stories of repetitive sexual harassment by the same assaulter over a period of time. Just like the stories of harassment from close family members, women reported such stories by close friends and even tutors they once trusted. 

A 20-year old recounts an incident with a Nepali teacher. She was 13-year old when she met this teacher who was a bit too friendly with all his students and especially more affectionate to   female students. She says, “He used to caress our thighs and our backs, and when we reported to the principal, all he said was, “Well! You should not have worn clothes that would make him uncomfortable or tempt him to touch you.” In the final statement of her response, she writes, “I regretted coming forward about the incident and wished that I had never said anything in the first place as my principal made me feel ashamed about being harassed.” Out of more than the hundred responses received, only 6 women had told someone about them being harassed. And out of the latter, only one said that she received a positive and warm response. She told her mother about a teacher molesting her and he was promptly fired from the school and never heard from him again.

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