Saturday, 30 April 2011

Reported rapes are on the rise

Photo by: Pha Lina
Chan Krisna Sawada, head of the women’s and children’s rights programme at ADHOC, speaks yesterday during a conference in Phnom Penh, addressing indecent acts committed against women and children.

Friday, 29 April 2011 15:01Chhay Chhanyda and Mary Kozlovski

An 11-year-old girl from Preah Sihanouk province claimed yesterday that she was raped by a provincial police official in October last year, at a conference where new data revealed an increase in reported cases of rape and indecent assault.

The girl, who was aged 10 at the time of the alleged offence, said at a press conference held by human rights group ADHOC in Phnom Penh that no legal action had been taken against the official.
“He raped me three times,” she said. “He was arrested and then released.”

The girl’s father said at the conference that he was offered US$20,000 in compensation by the suspect’s family, but he did not accept it.

“My feelings hurt too much because [the suspect] is still free,” he said.

The mother of a rape-and-murder victim, a suspect in an underage rape and seven women and girls who had experienced rape or indecent assault also spoke.

ADHOC yesterday said it had recorded a total of 156 complaints of rape and indecent assault from January to March this year, with 116 cases involving minors under the age of 18. These figures compared with 120 complaints with 85 cases involving minors over the same period last year.

In 2010, ADHOC investigated 501 rape and indecent assault complaints, a 9 percent increase on the 460 reported cases in 2009.

Chan Krisna Sawada, head of the women’s and children’s rights programme at ADHOC, said yesterday that while the increase could be attributed to more cases being reported, drugs, alcohol and pornography were impacting on the volume of assaults.

“Most of the rapes and assaults are committed by fathers and stepfathers … and most of the perpetrators are drunk,” she said.

“We did a survey and interviewed perpetrators in jail, they say the same thing: ‘After I watched a pornographic film on television, on my telephone, I want to [imitate] it.’”

Chan Krisna Sawada said that law enforcement in rape and indecent assault cases was lacking.

“No serious measures have been taken to combat this rise,” she said. “[There is] the issue of victims accepting civil compensation and dropping criminal charges because of their lack of knowledge of laws.

They don’t understand that they can still proceed with the criminal charges and get the civil compensation.”

ADHOC has requested that the government create a juvenile court and train judges in children’s rights and that the Ministry of Justice reaffirm proper implementation of the law to judges and prosecutors.

Sam Prachea Manith, director of cabinet at the Ministry of Justice, said yesterday that hearings for rape cases in municipal and provincial courts were not public, in order to protect the victims.

“The juvenile hearings have curtains or barriers for the victims and judges have televisions to talk with victims,” he said. “[The] victims sit behind curtains, they don’t see the suspect.”

Sam Prachea Manith denied that court officials had released rape suspects in the past. “I know in general that no one in the courts dares to release rape suspects now,” he said.

Officials from the Ministry of Women Affairs and the Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment by The Post yesterday.

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