Reported incidents of child rape in Battambang province have increased over the last nine months, local rights group Adhoc said, mirroring what rights workers say is a disturbing trend emerging across the country.
Since January, 32 child rapes have been reported to Adhoc’s provincial office, compared to three rapes of adults in the same period, Yin Mengly, Adhoc provincial coordinator said.
Last year, 30 of a total 50 rapes reported to the Battambang office were committed against children.
“We are worried. This number is very high and dangerous,” Yin Mengly said. “Cambodia’s society and morality is down deeply today. Even monks have raped underage girls,” he said.
Officials with Adhoc, Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, local rights group Licadho and the NGO Protection of Juvenile Justice all say reports of rape against those under 18 years of age have increased across the country.
Licadho handled 140 child rape cases in 2004, said Phav Kimsan, Licadho’s children’s rights coordinator.
Though the year is not yet over, 2005 has already trumped last year, with 159 child rape cases.
No one is sure whether the increase in reports is due to more people coming forward to expose rapes, or if the numbers of rape cases are increasing.
Victims are exposed to sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and branded with lifelong social stigma.
“Victims of rapists have mental problems, health problems, they stop studying,” said Oung Chanthol, executive director of Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center.
Although attitudes about victims are softening, many still regard rape victims as damaged goods for life, she said.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Ung Kantha Phavy said children may be increasingly targeted because they are easier to intimidate and are less likely to be carrying sexually transmitted diseases.
Touch Socheata, woman’s rights supervisor for Licadho, added that the parents of young children are easier to bribe into silence as they may want to protect their child’s reputation.
Former minister of women’s affairs Mu Sochua added another reason for the increase: rapists themselves are younger and are targeting other youngsters.
Hong Chansokha, lawyer for the NGO Protection of Juvenile Justice, placed responsibility for halting child rape squarely on the government.
He said that while parents must work to keep their children safe, officials should more diligently persecute perpetrators and curtail drug use and pornography. And, he said, legal authorities must follow through with arrests, trials and sentences.
“Crackdowns in the past have not been effective, because the authorities do not carry out [the law] strictly,” he said.
© 2005 – 2014, All rights reserved.