Child sexual abuse (CSA) is very much prevalent across the globe despite ratification of Child Rights Convention by majority of the countries. Most countries are struggling to combat this issue and Nepal is no exception. The number of child sexual abuse cases reported in past few months is alarming, and the number has been rocketing by the day. According to the reports of the National Child Rights Council, 72 children were victims to sexual abuse, rape in precise, since July to November, 2077. This has caused tremendous distress for the nation’s efforts in development. Children need extra protection as they are more vulnerable to physical, sexual, mental, and psychological threats. Children are the future generation and it is imperative that they get an environment to develop to their full potential. Healthy children in terms of physical, emotional, and psychological health are vital for the future prosperity of any society.
Rape has been recognised as one of the major crimes that occur frequently in the country. The concerning factor is that children are being targeted as the victim of this crime. As per the statistics of Nepal Police, 2,144 cases of rape and 687 attempt to rape cases were reported in the fiscal year 2019/20, out of which majority of the victims were minors. In Nepal, 13% to 18% of children fall victim to sexual abuse. Police also stated that in almost all the cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim. Statistically, 80% of the rapes are committed by victims’ close relatives, neighbours, and even their fathers. 
In milieu of this, it becomes pertinent to understand the factors relating to soaring cases of minor rapes in the country. One of the main reasons behind child sexual abuse is that children are easy prey for the perpetrators as they can be easily manipulated and mishandled. They are unable to understand what is being done to them. Due to this, children usually fail to communicate their suffering. The rapists get a sense of security that their act will never be revealed, which encourages them to continue committing such crimes.
Likewise, many rape cases go unreported and unaddressed owing to the stigma attached to it. The rape incidents are suppressed as it is believed to bring shame in the family. Relatives and family members, in most of the cases, do not support the victim and try to cover up for the rapists. Further, in majority of the rape cases, the victim and her family are forced to have an out of court settlement with the perpetrator. Dismissal of rape cases on the basis of settlement is further encouraging the rapists. Criminals are absolved without facing any repercussions. This promotes rape culture and instils a belief in perpetrators that they can get away even after committing heinous crimes. For instance, the incident of rape of a 14-year-old girl in Bajhang, where she was made to settle the matter on a condition that the rapist would bear the responsibility of her and the child, if she got pregnant. Further, her rapist was made to apologise by placing Rs 500 at her feet. In less than a week, the same person raped and murdered another 12-year-old girl. This instance makes it apparent that perpetrators have no fear of facing legal sanctions which encourages them to flagrantly commit such crimes.
Nevertheless, the observation with regard to the causes of CSA is based on practical findings. There are no concrete studies depicting as to why there is a surge in the rate of CSA in the past few years. There is lack of substantive knowledge on psychology of child sexual abusers.
Rape incidents in the month of November
The data of child rape in the month of November gathered from various news portals is tabulated below.
|S.N||Date||Age of the victim||Age of the Perpetrator||Location||Relation|
|1.||Nov 2||11 years||60 years||Makwanpur||Not mentioned|
|2.||Nov 2||10 years||51||Janakpur||Not mentioned|
|3.||Nov 11||7 years||52 years||Gothatar||Person known to the victim|
|4.||Nov 14||17 years||4 men (one of which is 25 years)||Kapilvastu||Boyfriend and his friends|
|5.||Nov 17||14 years||23 years||Basundol||Neighbour|
|6.||Nov. 19||3 years||Two men, age not revealed||Makwanpur||Not mentioned|
|7.||Nov 25||6 years||25 years||Bardibas||Neighbour|
|8.||Nov 27||13 years||39 years||Pokhara||Father|
In the month of November itself, eight rape cases of minors were reported, however, this is not an exhaustive list.
Endeavours to tackle the issue
Following the incident of rape and murder of a six-year-old girl child in Bardibas, there was a huge public outcry condemning the crime. The agitated locals came to the street to protest on November 24 and it has continued for several days despite a subsequently imposed curfew. Furthermore, the government has endorsed an ordinance on rape to address the soaring rate of sexual violence. The ordinance is viewed as an affirmative measures in ensuring justice to the sexual violence victims.
The recent ordinance has sought to bring amendments to the current laws on rape to make it more stringent by increasing the span of imprisonment. One of the positive aspects of the ordinance is that it is gender neutral. Laws relating to rape in Nepal have finally recognised that people of other genders, not only female, can also be raped.
Additionally, the ordinance has also provisioned for recourse against people that compel rape victims to enter a settlement with the perpetrator. The provision in the ordinance states that people involved in forcing the victim for reconciliation will face three years’ imprisonment and fine up to Rs 30,000. In case of involvement of police, public servants and court thereof, further imprisonment punishment of six months will be added. This step holds a great amount of significance in curbing the issue of rape as out of court settlement is seen to be the biggest hurdle in ensuring justice to the victim as well as the one of the major causes of surging number of rape cases.
Looking at the rate in which inter and intra familial child sexual abuse is increasing every year, children are not safe within their own houses. The impact of it on children is devastating, which may lead to depression, social anxiety, severe physical harm, and mental trauma. It affects the growth of the children. Rape and sexual abuse are the worst form of maltreatment to children. There is an urgent need to address this issue and efforts have been made. However, merely bringing new laws would not suffice to reduce child sexual abuse. Mass awareness with regard to rape and its consequence is required. Further, thorough implementation of the laws is of utmost importance.