Of the 216 rapes, attempted rapes and rape-murders reported to police around the country in the first half of 2010, nearly two-thirds involved victims under 18, according to a Ministry of Interior report obtained yesterday.
The 216 documented rape cases in the first half of 2010 also represent a more than 60-percent increase compared to statistics compiled by police during the first six months of 2009, when 133 rape offences were tallied, though an official said the comparison may be misleading.
Human rights workers say that rapes, and the rape of children in particular, are not sufficiently prosecuted or examined in Cambodia.
Bith Kimhong, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking police, said the number of documented reported rapes cases was higher this year because the 2009 numbers were incomplete.
“The reason for the increase of rape cases is because last year we couldn’t collect all the cases reported from the 24 municipalities and provinces,” Mr Kimhong said yesterday.
He added that anti-trafficking police were working to collect more complete statistics and accept all rape cases in their statistics this year.
“Now, we are demanding the exact reports of the rape cases from every court,” he said. “We are following their cases to the end with cooperation from our courts across the country.”
The 2010 rape figures were discussed Tuesday during a meeting at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, where officials considered ways to curb sex crimes against women and children. Mr Kimhong said he attended the meeting but ended the interview before discussing details.
In the 216 rapes reported, there were 171 court cases and the arrests of 131 suspects. Three rape-and-murder cases resulted in four arrests. And 49 suspects were arrested in 47 cases of attempted rape. The Cambodia Daily has reported on 13 rape-murders this year.
Ninety-two victims were under 15, 46 were between 15 and 17 and 89 were adults, according to the Interior Ministry report.
Although totals vary, the percentage of rape victims younger than 18 is consistent with statistics gathered by the human rights group Adhoc. Last week, Adhoc reported 300 rapes in the first seven months of the year–195, or nearly two-thirds, involved children. The Cambodia Daily has reported on 14 sexual abuse cases involving children since August.
Licadho president Pung Chhiv Kek said yesterday that statistics, from the government or from NGOs, did not paint a realistic picture of how many rapes take place.
“We cannot be sure that the cases of rape are increasing,” she said. “Maybe now, people understand that rape is a crime and they can come to local authorities.”
Since a stigma is often attached to victims, Ms Chhiv Kek said many rapes were not recorded. An Amnesty International report regarding rape in Cambodia released in March documented how victims felt “spoiled and broken” after rape, saying the crime could keep them from marrying.
Ms Chhiv Kek said children, on the other hand, were viewed as “innocent” and unable to protect themselves, perhaps causing crimes against children to be more freely reported.
“Children, they are innocent when they are raped. They come to the parent and say they are raped, and they are not guilty,” she said.
However, Adhoc President Thun Saray said the high proportion of child rapes being reported was a sign that rape was increasing and that crimes perpetrated against children outnumbered adult rape cases. He said the stigma attached to rape applied more to children than adults, meaning that offenders may target children, thinking the crime will not be reported.
“The child is afraid to be intimidated,” he said.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, said the question of why more child rapes are reported than adult rapes was difficult to answer. He said one reason could be that child-rape convictions carry longer sentences, which could encourage families to lodge complaints.
In order to reduce rapes across the country, Ms Chhiv Kek said courts needed to fully prosecute suspects and the practice of brokering out-of-court settlements needed to end.
“If we bring most of the perpetrators to justice, I think it will send a good message to society,” she said.