Nepal: Rape Culture and Dirtbags

A live band played the stage, cranking out covers of Chili Peppers and Jack Johnson. Normally, this litany of hit radio drivel would have me walking out of the bar, if that bar happened to be in America. But this was a bar in Kathmandu and it was Friday night and our table was full of new friends and old friends and our bellies were full of Thai food and our glasses, full of hot local rum, saved us from the cool night air, full of pungent aromas that one often detects on a night such as this in Kathmandu. Most of us had come from my yoga class earlier that afternoon, so you know everyone at the table was beautiful people. The conversation was light, lots of jokers. Candles illuminated the room, because who needs electricity in Nepal?  

It had been a hard week and in that moment, I could not think of a better setting to kick off the weekend.

Like a CD stuck in the dash radio of a 1997 Toyota Corolla, the band had come around to its encore performance of “Wonderwall” so perhaps, we decided, it was time to change scenery. Several of us gathered our coats, headed to the next silly watering hole, but a few, including my flatmate, confessed she was too wiped out to continue the crusade, and grabbed a taxi home.

Our house is located at the end of a long, winding, pockmarked dirt lane. For that reason, when we travel by taxi, we usually have the driver drop us where the lane meets the main road. During our frequent blackouts, the path is forebodingly dark, but it’s only a five-minute walk.

K had just started down the lane when two men on a motorbike rolled up, creeper style. One man hopped off the back of the motorbike and began walking alongside her, asking questions.

“Where you from, how old are you, are you alone, do you have a husband…” you know, creeper stuff. She did her best to ignore him. That’s when he grabbed her from behind, attempting to restrain her around her neck and shoulders with both his arms. 

What this creep did not know is that K is a trained kick boxer. She elbowed him sharply in the neck and struck him in the middle of his face. He turned and fled. 

Once she was safely home, K called to tell me what’d happened. I asked her what the men looked like. She described her attacker as a Nepali man with broad frame and a black leather jacket. I headed home straight away. 

I got out of the taxi just a short walk from my house (though in retrospect I should’ve had the driver drop me in front of my gate). Just as with K described, as soon as I stepped out of the cab, a motorcycle with two men fitting the description crept alongside me, as if to size me up. Once it was clear I was not a blonde female, the bike zipped away. 

K is still awake with all the lights in the house turned on. A little shaken, but more pissed off than anything else. We debriefed a bit, and decided we should definitely report this to the police come morning.

A truly beautiful night had soured pretty damn quick. This shit… in my neighborhood!

Oh, and as if things weren’t bad enough, I left my stupid phone in the stupid taxi. That little detail becomes relevant later.

The next day, K and I went to the police station to report the attack. Kathmandu has a special office, just for foreigners. Here’s where a scumbag story turns scumbaggier.

We explain what had taken place. The two cops at the desk wag their heads a bit and pass over a form to log the report. At the same time, I had to file a separate report for my phone. The ranking officer laid on some charm to lighten the air.

“These are very bad problems. Your problem,” he said, nodding towards K, “is bad, yes, but your problem,” he continued, now motioning to my missing phone report, “is much more worse!”

In case you’re wondering, yes, he was completely deadpan when he said this.

K finished her report, and left the room to use the toilet, probably to vomit a little. As I dotted my t’s and crossed my i’s, the other cop leaned in towards me, conspiratorial-like.

“Hey. Your friend, what does she do here?”

“She’s just traveling through.”

“She is very ah… fit.”

“Pardon?”

His mouth turned up in a lewd dirtbag grin.

“She is a very, aha, healthy looking girl.”

Are you fucking kidding me? First off, dude, you are a cop. Sworn to protect and all that shit. Not just any cop, but a cop specifically tasked with representing your country to the outside world.

Second, we are here to report an attack, likely an attempted sexual assault, and I’m supposed to believe that you, with your rape-eyes, plan to take this case seriously?

But wait. There’s more.

After an exhausting explanation of what they would not be doing as part of a pointless token investigation, they handed each of us a postcard.

You’re going to ask us to help promote tourism in Nepal, after we’ve just filed an assault report? K and I later mused about what our hashtag campaign might look like.

“OMG. Here’s us at local PD! Wish you were here! #NepalNOW #rape-eyes”

If it weren’t so awful, it’d be awfully funny.

Readers who follow me on social media know that on the whole, I like this country. I support local businesses, even when their service is deplorable. I’ve made some stellar local friends. I am weirdly obsessed with the eggs here. In turn, it feels like many Nepalis are trying their damndest to rebuild the country and the economy. So when a weekend like this one happens, it gets me pretty blue.

Nepal, you’ve got so much going for you. Mountains, valleys, and the funkiest nightlife I’ve seen in a long time. But you’re like that old buddy from high school who mechanically “Likes” everything I post on Facebook — you’re eager, but dammit, get your act together, kid! Otherwise, you’re going to soon find yourself unfriended.

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