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Risks of child sexual abuse growing
BARDIYA, 21 January 2008 (IRIN)

Nearly a year has passed since 13-year-old Maya (not her real name) was sexually abused and molested by her class teacher but her abuser has been walking free since he knows the victim cannot prove anything legally.

"I want that teacher punished but my only evidence against him is my testimony," Maya told IRIN in remote Milan Chowk village of Bardiya District, nearly 700km west of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. She said her teacher had been molesting her every day during and after school for nearly three months.

But she was too scared to complain to the school administration, fearing they would not believe her and then suspend her from school. Her only escape was to quit school and stay at home with her mother.

"I fear for other students because nobody is complaining about him or other teachers who "do bad things' to children," said Maya. She said a large number of girls aged 10-13 were often sexually abused at her school, but their crimes always went unpunished despite complaints to the school administration.

''Everyone is too scared to speak up because we may not get justice.'' Maya and her friends are ready to make their case public and take legal action but their only question is who will take the first step. "Everyone is too scared to speak up because we may not get justice," she said.

Child sexual abuse "alarming", says NGO

There is no precise data available on the number of sexual abuse and rape cases but activists believe the situation is alarming.

A research study report entitled No More Suffering - Child Sexual Abuse in Nepal - Children's Perspectives published in April 2006 by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), found that nearly 18 percent of the 4,000 students interviewed had experienced severe sexual abuse, including molesting and rape.

Another research report on child sexual abuse entitled Silent Suffering - Child Sexual Abuse in the Kathmandu Valley issued in June 2003 by Save the Children Norway in Nepal and CWIN, said a large number of schoolchildren in Kathmandu had been subjected to sexual abuse. Nearly 13.7 percent of the 5,000 interviewed students had suffered from severe sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse often occurs in schools, activists say

CWIN is a national non-governmental organisation (NGO) helping to rescue and protect children at risk of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.

"The situation of child sexual abuse is alarming and strong measures have to be taken to protect the children at risk of being sexually abused," said Madhav Pradhan from CWIN.

CWIN's 24-hour emergency service called Child Helpline, which helps vulnerable children, has been receiving more calls from victims to help rescue them from being abused and raped on a regular basis.

"We immediately respond to calls from children to ensure that we report their cases immediately to the police so that they can start investigations promptly," said Bharat Adhikari, programme officer of Child Helpline.

Strong laws needed
Adhikari said a lot could have been done to protect the children and punish their abusers if there was a stable government and strong laws were in place. So far, the penalty against the accused rapist is a prison term of 11 years if the crime is proven within 35 days. But in cases of child victims, most of them report quite late due to fear and their state of trauma, according to Adhikari.

"It takes them months to finally reveal the incident of rape and it is often too late to punish the alleged rapists."

"It takes them months to finally reveal the incident of rape and it is often too late to punish the alleged rapists," explained Adhikari.

He said the law was even weaker when it comes to sexual abuse cases. The abuser, if found guilty of attempting rape, would get barely a year of imprisonment.

Child rights activists expressed their concern that sexual abuse incidents could increase as the government had failed to give priority to non-political social issues, including the protection of children.

Government officials authorised to speak on the issue and laws related to sexual crimes were not immediately available for comment.

Source:IRIN 2008
Copyright Ⓒ UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2008
[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).


more information
Universal Declaration of Human Rights Women in Nepal: Social Status
UNICEF report: Situation Analysis on the Children and Women in Nepal 2006 INSEC Violence against Women during Armed Conflict

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