Though the most recent figures from local rights group Adhoc report a slight decrease in instances of rape from January to May 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, the prevalence of child rape continues to be alarmingly high.
According to the head of Adhoc’s monitoring section, Ny Chakrya, there were 206 cases of rape reported from January to May this year—134 of which were of girls between the ages of 5 and 17. Forty cases involved girls younger than 10.
In the same period in 2007, 227 cases of rape were reported to Adhoc—168 of which affected girls between 5 and 17 and 48 of which involved girls under 10.
Ny Chakrya attributed the decline to an increase in legal services being provided to victims, which he believes has led to a proportional increase in the number of arrests.
In 2007, Adhoc reported that 26 percent of perpetrators were arrested in rape cases affecting victims under 10 years old. In 2008, 64 percent of rape perpetrators were arrested in cases involving victims under 10. For cases involving victims younger than 5, the percentage of arrests increased from 41 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2008, he said.
“We are providing more lawyers to defend the victims,” Ny Chakrya said. “When Adhoc is not there, how many receive justice?… I think it is very little,” he added, positing that many rape cases, possibly hundreds, go unreported.
Ouk Kimchantran, Adhoc women’s program officer, said that despite the decrease in reported cases, she believes the child rape problem is worsening.
“Before, we never see the situation like this,” she said. “Now, victims are younger. I don’t understand why.”
Ny Chakrya said labor migration patterns may be a factor.
“In the village now, 18-year-old girls go to the city to find jobs…. Only the young girls are left,” he said, adding that parents often migrate for work as well and are therefore unable to keep a close watch on younger children.
The Interior Ministry reported 110 rapes in the first half of 2008, for which 78 suspects have been found guilty and 78 suspects have been arrested and are in pretrial detention.
For the first half of 2007, the Interior Ministry counted 167 rape cases, for which 104 suspects were found guilty and 110 suspects are in pretrial detention. Ny Chakrya said the Interior Ministry’s numbers are lower than Adhoc’s because provincial police cannot be counted on to report all cases to the ministry level.
Police often try to settle rape cases outside of court with paid compensation, from which they receive a kickback, he said.
“Perpetrators give money to police for mediation. So this is seen as normal and builds the attitude of young people,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)