THE number of rape cases reported in selected newspapers increased from 268 in 2008 to 322 in 2009, and more than half of last year’s cases involved victims who were minors, according to a media analysis released last week.
In its report on the coverage of rape cases in five local newspapers, the Cambodian branch of End Child Prostitution, Abuse and Trafficking (ECPAT) found that of the 337 victims in the 322 reported cases last year, 204 were minors.
Chin Chanveasna, director of ECPAT-Cambodia, said Monday that the increase in reported cases reflected, in part, a nationwide effort to raise awareness of rape. “I think the government and NGOs have been working to broadcast about protection from rape,” he said. “But we are worried and need to do more to educate parents to pay attention to their children’s safety.”
Of the 381 suspects involved in rape cases last year, only six – just 1.5 percent – were reported to have been convicted, a figure ECPAT attributed in part to the frequency of out-of-court settlements.
Chin Chanveasna said many victims settle out of court because they can’t afford legal fees, though he said this practice would ensure that rape continues because it leaves perpetrators free to offend again.
“I still push and encourage them to go to court even when the victims do not have the [financial] ability to make a complaint, because there are many NGOs that can help them without taking money,” he said.
Sao Chan Horm, a monitor for the rights group Licadho, said Monday that the government needs to spread more information about how people can protect themselves from rape. “Mostly it happens in rural areas with poor families and low education,” she said, adding that the rise in reported cases involving minors should not be blamed on careless parenting.
Sao Chan Horm said Licadho had also recorded an increase in reported rape cases in 2009, though she noted that the data covered only 14 provinces. Licadho collected reports from newspapers, victims’ families and police. That data showed a spike in child rape, from 146 to 209 cases.
Chin Chanveasna emphasised that the total number of rape cases was higher than the number extracted from news reports, and noted that ECPAT would release a comprehensive report along with other NGOs in mid-2010.