CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli has defended the party's candidate for mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Keshav Sthapit who has been alleged of sexual harassment in the past.
Addressing a program organized by the party's metropolitan committee on Thursday Oli commented that issues of sexual harassment are raised at the time of election for character assassination of the candidate.
"#MeToo arrives (sic) whenever there is election. Things about character assassination come at such times. What is answer to "#MeToo? We have moved forwad in great issues not on such things," Oli stated. "No one is as sensistive as UML in the context of respect of women's pride."
He claimed that UML has been committed to defending women's pride and rights and respecting them right from the time of founding of the party and opined that efforts have been made for character assassination of the candidate at the time of election.
Oli's comments have arrived when the party is being criticized for fielding someone who has been accused of sexual harassment in the past as its mayoral candidate in Kathmandu and just hours after Sthapit misbehaved with a social campaigner for asking questions about allegations of sexual harassment against him earlier on Thursday.
Campaigner Bhawana Raut asked Sthapit about the #MeToo allegations during an interaction program titled ‘Hope and Curiosity of Youths in Local Election’ at National College in Dhumbarahi on Thursday.
“I wanted to question about allegations of sexual harassment against Keshav Sthapit during the #MeToo campaign myself. I, therefore, asked him about those allegations,” Raut, a one-time sympathizer of Bibeksheel Sajha Party, later told Setopati.
He replied that the accuser was sacked for corruption. She then asked ‘You should either prove your innocence by refuting (the allegations) once you have been alleged. If not, do you have moral grounds to remain in a post like mayor?’
She claimed that Sthapit lost cool after that. “He stood up from his seat in anger, and said wagging his index finger ‘You're nice lady, but tongue is not okay.’”
There was ruckus in the hall after that. Bibeksheel Sajha’s mayoral candidate Samikshya Baskota, who was also present on the dais, took exception to Sthapit’s comment, according to Raut. “Samikshya told Sthapit that he cannot misbehave in that manner,” she added.
Rashmila Maharjan, who was an officer with Kathmandu Metropolitan City when Sthapit was mayor, and journalist Ujjwala Maharjan, who worked with Republica in early 2010s, had accused Sthapit of sexual harassment around four years back as women across the globe took to the social media reliving sexual harassment they faced in the past as part of #MeToo campaign.