Sexual harassment plagues Nepalese newsrooms

By Yam Kumari Kandel  |  Feb. 21, 2013 at 4:43 PM
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (GPI)-- A 28-year-old female reporter says she started working at Terai Television Network, a private TV news station, in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, to bring women’s issues to light. But she quit nine months later because of sexual harassment by a colleague. “It was fun working in television, but I had to face challenges also,” says the reporter, who requested anonymity to preserve her reputation professionally. “If only the perpetrators would be penalized, such incidents would be known to the public. If not, I would only be stigmatized. Therefore, I quit my job.” female journalist and victim of sexual harassment She says the harassment started two months after starting her job during 2011. A man called her four times in a row for several nights straight. By checking the phone number and scrutinizing the voice, she realized it was one of her male colleagues. “One day, he even proposed to have sex, due to which I got very tense,” she says. She scolded him and switched off her phone for a while. But his phone calls didn’t stop. For seven months, she says she suffered harassment from him and other male colleagues. They touched her physically, stared at her for long periods, teased her and called her outside of work hours. She told her female colleagues about the harassment and that she wanted to quit. But her female co-workers, who also endured sexual harassment from the same man and other colleagues, discouraged her from quitting out of fear. She says she considered taking legal action against the co-worker who harassed her. But she doubted that he would be penalized, so she refrained. “If only the perpetrators would be penalized, such incidents would be known to the public,” she says. “If not, I would only be stigmatized. Therefore, I quit my job.” She left the company seven months after the harassment started. “I am disappointed over journalism as a profession because of constant harassment I had to face,” she says. She says she is considering changing her profession because of the abuse. “I have also a postgraduate degree in banking,” she says. “Now, I am thinking to switch over to a career in the banking sector.” Female journalists working in the Nepalese media say they face sexual harassment in their offices from their male colleagues. But few report it, citing fear of social stigma and professional retribution as well as low conviction rates for perpetrators because of the difficulty producing evidence. Media management say they promote women-friendly environments, but few have official policies on gender equity or sexual harassment. While a 2009 bill on sexual harassment in the workplace is still pending, a government-formed task force has made recommendations for how to reduce abuse. Twenty percent of 152 female journalists interviewed for a 2011 study said that they had faced sexual harassment, according to “Status of Women Journalists Working in Kathmandu Valley,” by Sancharika Samuha, a forum of women journalists and communicators. Seventeen percent of the 46 media houses surveyed lacked policies on sexual harassment. The government established a six-member task force, the Task Force for the Study on Gender Violence in the Media Houses, during June 2012 to investigate sexual harassment in the media sector.

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