NEARLY 70 percent of rape cases recorded by the rights group Adhoc in the first five months of this year involved underage victims, according to figures released this week.
Out of 194 total cases, 135 involved victims who were under the age of 18 years, said Sawada Chan Krisna, the head of Adhoc’s women’s and children’s unit.
Sawada Chan Krisna said, however, that her unit had misplaced its rape statistics for April and May of 2009, making a year-to-year comparison impossible.
In the first three months of 2009, the unit recorded 81 rapes of children – 37 in January, 22 in February and 22 in March. In the same period this year, the unit recorded 86 – 22 in January, 33 in February and 31 in March. Adhoc monitors crimes in all 24 provinces.
The rights group Licadho, which monitors crimes in 12 provinces, recorded slightly fewer rapes of children in the first five months of this year: 83, compared to 87 in 2009.
Representatives of both groups said they believed public awareness of rape had increased in the past year, and that victims were more inclined to report the crime.
But they also expressed concern that, despite apparent attempts by law enforcement to prosecute more perpetrators, many cases are resolved out of court with money.
Sao Seny, a child rights monitor for Licadho, said rapes of children were more likely to occur in poor families. “Child rape mostly happens in poor families, when parents go to work and keep their children with neighbours or uncles.”
Poor families are also more likely to decide not to pursue criminal cases in exchange for compensation payments, a practice that was bemoaned by the authors of a March report from Amnesty International on sexual violence in Cambodia.
Bith Kimhong, director of Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, acknowledged that such payments provide a “loophole” for perpetrators, and added: “The enforcement of the law is the only way to change their behaviour.”