Nepal's agriculture minister quits after videos, photos of alleged sexual harassment go viral

KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepal's agriculture minister resigned on Thursday following a storm of criticism after videos and photographs of him attempting to hug women during recent festival celebrations were posted online, officials said.

Images of Mr Hari Prasad Parajuli, Minister for Agricultural Development, trying to grab and hug women during Tuesday's celebrations marking the beginning of the annual rice planting season went viral on social media late Wednesday, sparking accusations of sexual harassment.

Mr Surya Thapa, a spokesman for Parajuli's Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party, told AFP: "The photos and videos showed that his behaviour were indecent, he should not have crossed the boundary of public decorum.

"He resigned after taking note of the public's comments and allegations against him," he added.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala's press advisor confirmed acceptance of his resignation.

According to a 2013 World Bank survey, 26 per cent of female respondents aged between 19 and 35 years old said they had experienced some form of sexual assault on public transport in Nepal.

Activists say police attitudes that refuse to see sexual harassment as a serious crime compound the issue, with many incidents going unreported as women believe they will court ridicule and more unwanted attention as a result.

The authorities introduced women-only minibuses in Kathmandu in January in a bid to protect female passengers from sexual assault.