In what appears to be the first #MeToo disclosure in Bangladesh, model Maksuda Akhter Prioty has alleged sexual harassment by a businessman-politician at his office in Dhaka in 2015, a year after she was crowned Miss Ireland.
The Facebook post of the Bangladeshi-Irish model has touched off a social media storm, but the accused, Rongdhanu Group Chairman Md Rafiqul Islam, has denied the allegations.
Prioty, a pilot by training, had modelled several products in Bangladesh after she won the crown in the Irish beauty pageant.
The 29-year-old on Monday alleged in the post that she was sexually harassed by Rafiqul when she had gone to his office to collect payment for featuring in an advertisement for one of the group’s products.
But the group did not pay her, she alleged.
Rafiqul is also chairman of Kayetparha union council in Narayanganj’s Rupganj. He is gunning for the ruling Awami League’s nomination in the parliamentary elections.
Denying Prioty’s allegation, Rafiqul claimed she has taken money from his political rivals to defame him ahead of the elections.
Asked whether Prioty had dobe modelling of his group’s product, he claimed he did not know who modelled which of his group’s products.
Prioty has also alleged Rafiqul had threatened her with death if she went public.
“It’s needless to say this is a false allegation, a staged drama. She lives in Ireland,” the man retorted.
“And why she is speaking in 2018 about what happened in 2015? People should have known about this in 2015? Where was she until now?” he asked.
Prioty, in another Facebook post, a live video, has already answered Rafiqul.
“Everyone will ask why now. I had spoken about sexual harassment before the MeToo movement, but could not muster the courage to name anyone. I don’t know how I have become so brave now.”
Rafiqul also dared Prioty to come to Bangladesh to prove the allegation.
Prioty, now a mother of two, said in the post that she had not decided whether to start a case against him.
“I will have to stay in Bangladesh to do this (take legal action). But I have a job, children (in Ireland),” she said.
The Me Too movement is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organiser, began using the phrase "Me Too" as early as 2006.
It went viral last year as a hashtag used on the social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
The phrase was later popularised by American actress Alyssa Milano.