Tracking the continued rise in the number of reported rape cases in Cambodia, the human rights group Adhoc recorded 501 rapes nationwide in 2010, including 33 rapes of children aged 5 or younger, Adhoc President Thun Saray said.
The total number of rapes recorded by Adhoc, though likely only a fraction of the true number due to the consistent underreporting of crimes, was up nearly 9 percent from the 460 cases recorded in 2009, and nearly 20 percent higher than the 419 cases recorded in 2008.
While National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith declined to comment on Adhoc’s figures yesterday, saying he did not have official police numbers on hand, he did say police had also recorded a rise in rapes nationwide in 2010.
National Police recorded 247 rapes in 2009, up from 206 in 2008.
“The numbers recorded for every kind of crime dropped [in 2010] except for rape,” Mr Chantharith said, adding that police were still studying what was causing the number of reported rapes to increase.
He said the recorded rise in rape cases involving young children was of particular concern to police. “It is still not clear what [has caused the increase in rapes]. We are studying about this.”
Mr Saray said Adhoc recorded 76 cases where the victim was younger than 10 years of age in 2010, and 33 cases where the victim was younger than 5.
Of the rapes recorded by Adhoc, 72 percent involved victims under the age of 18, Mr Saray said.
“The numbers increase each year,” Mr Saray said, adding that the high percentage of rapes of minors could be because they are the weakest victims.
Men “only rape underage girls because they are physically weaker than they are. They also choose younger victims because they are less likely to get HIV or AIDS.”
Mr Saray said he believed mental health problems were a major contributing factor behind the high number of rapes of young children, some of whom were barely old enough to walk.
In June, The Cambodia Daily reported on a case of a 2-year-old Kandal province toddler who was allegedly raped by a 16-year-old neighbor.
“I cannot understand how these rapes can occur. I believe it involves mental health problems,” Mr Saray said, adding that he believed a report should be considered to investigate the mental health of convicted rapists.
Mr Saray said Adhoc had also found in 2010 that a disparity between the number of young men and women in Cambodia’s more remote provinces could be a factor pushing the number of rapes up.
Major General Bith Kimhong, head of the ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said last week that the government had nearly finished its report on the causes of rape and possible policy recommendations.
“The Interior Ministry’s report has not yet been finished…. It will be issued in early January,” he said, declining to discuss the report’s contents.
“Obviously there has been a rise in rape cases. We feel sorry about the abuse of children. We want to see a decline in the numbers.”
But while both Adhoc and police recorded a rise in the number of rapes, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the figures only represented a tiny fraction of the total problem.
“For every reported case, there are another 10 or maybe 100 unreported cases,” Ms Sochua said.
Ms Sochua said preventing further increases in the number of rapes would require the government to have the political will to tackle the culture of impunity. She said society would also have to take responsibility for condemning sexual violence.
“Sexual assault does not happen on the spot. It is nurtured by an environment and a culture that condones such acts of violence,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)