There were 140 reported cases of child rape in the first nine months of the year, and 14 rape-murders during the same period, according to local rights group Adhoc.
Rapes perpetrated against children accounted for more than two-thirds of all rape cases recorded by the organization, a situation that indicates a general tolerance for the crime of child rape in Cambodian society, said Chuon Chamrong, head of the women’s program at Adhoc.
“There is a culture of violence, man on women, but it is not a priority in Cambodia,” said Ms. Chamrong, adding that the mass protests that erupted after the recent rape and murder case in India and child rape in South Africa will not be seen in Cambodia anytime soon.
“Gender issues have not become a priority, that should be protested…. Rape is regarded as an individual issue, a personal issue, so the anger [is only] with the person who commits that crime,” Ms. Chamrong said.
Rights group Licadho had higher figures for the same January-to-September period, recording 170 child rapes in the nine months, three of which culminated in murder.
Ly Vichuta, director of Legal Support for Children and Women (LCSW), said Cambodia’s child rape problem—and the public’s implicit acceptance of it—stems from antiquated gender norms, a lack of education, poverty and, perhaps most directly, alcohol abuse.
“When we ask [perpetrators] why [they raped], they say, ‘I was just drunk…and so I just raped,’” Ms. Vichuta said, adding that according to LCSW’s own data, approximately 60 percent of rape victims are minors.
While the number of reported rapes continues to increase every year, it is impossible to tell whether this is due to more reporting or an increase in the crime, she said.
Ms. Vichuta also noted that many child rapes are never reported because often the perpetrator and victim are members of the same family, and because of this, complaints are sometimes not filed with the authorities.
“[For] some families in remote areas, if you talk about a child being raped, [it is a] loss of honor for the family,” she said.
The latest reported child rape cases reinforce Ms. Vichuta’s theory.
Cheng Soeurn, a 41-year-old farmer living in Takeo province’s Traing district, was arrested Saturday for beating his wife and daughter, then raping his 15-year-old stepdaughter, district police chief Seang Maly said.
“After he was arrested, the suspect admitted that he had raped his stepdaughter many times in the past, since she was 10 years old,” Mr. Maly said yesterday.
In a separate case, Chuch Sokha, 32, who did odd jobs in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, was charged yesterday with raping his 13-year-old stepdaughter four times, most recently on October 28, said Poansaing commune police chief San Sak on Tuesday.
“He raped his stepdaughter four times…while the victim was alone with him in their house. The suspect had been drunk [each time],” Mr. Sak said.
On Tuesday, the Kratie Provincial Court charged a 21-year-old motorcycle repairman with raping a 2-year-old girl in his home.
LCSW’s Ms. Vichuta joined calls for a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the seriousness of child rape, but said a lack of funding would impede such an effort.
“We cannot do a countrywide [campaign]…because a campaign costs money and also human resources,” she said, adding that Cambodia also lacks a single authority to collect figures related to rape, child rape and rape-murder cases.
“Police, court, NGOs [all] have different data,” she said.
Khieu Sereysothea, director-general of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, admitted Tuesday that the ministry does not gather such data.
“We have a duty to collect data, but we are [still] in the process of developing a system,” Ms. Sereysothea said.