Protesters in front of the prime minister's residence in Kathmandu on Thursday.
Mass protests over the gang rape of a young medical student in India have inspired a similar movement in neighbouring Nepal, where hundreds of protesters have been picketing outside the prime minister’s residence for the past week. They are furious over the alleged rape and robbery of a maid by government officials, just one of many cases they accuse the government of ignoring.
Sita Rai, a pseudonym used to protect the maid’s identity, says that she was robbed and raped by immigration officials as she returned from Saudi Arabia to Kathmandu’s international airport. The government gave her 1,700 dollars in compensation, which is 700 dollars less than she said she lost.
When news of this got out a week ago, angry citizens began picketing in front of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s residence, in the upscale Baluwatar neighbourhood of Kathmandu. The protest, dubbed #OccupyBaluwatar
on Twitter, soon spread, peaking on January 1 with about 800 protesters, according to organisers. It has continued since, though in smaller numbers, as the government has made several arrests in Rai’s case.
Protesters in front of the prime minister's residence on January 1. The man lying on the ground is not injured - he is portraying a victim of violence. Video courtesy of Chhokila Ukyab
According to the National Women’s Committee, more than 15 percent of Nepalese women have suffered from some type of sexual abuse. The latest data from the United Nations
, which dates back to 2006, shows only 69 cases of rape were reported to the police in Nepal that year, but activists say these are widely under-reported due to the stigma surrounding the issue.