Protecting our Children

The Psychiatry Department of the JDWNRH in the space of the last two weeks are counseling 5 girls from the age of 6 to 9 who have either been raped or there was attempted rape.

All of the children are deeply traumatized, but these cases are only a fraction of the overall cases and represent an unacknowledged problem in our county of sexual assault and molestation against children.

It was not long ago that the nation was outraged by the rape and murder case of the 8-year-old girl in Paro and the suspected murder case of 9-year-old Dena Koirala in Dechencholing.

People were even demanding the death penalty, but public memory and outrage is short lived and now we are back to the same cycle.

It is clear that we need to face some hard truths, and do much more to secure the safety of our children.

The majority of sexual assaults against children happen to those in the poorer socio-economic bracket, and it is usually because the parents are unable to take proper care of the child given their work and unsafe environments.

Here we need to ensure better social services for them and have facilities like drop and pick up of young school children who cannot afford for their parents to do so.

Most child abusers are known to the child as family members, neighbours, friends of parents, acquaintances etc, and so Bhutanese parents should give up the casual attitude of trusting their children with anyone. 

Even when people are aware that a child is being abused they often do not report the issue as they don’t want any controversy. Our society has to be more proactive.

While adult women who are sexually harassed can get convictions in court, the investigation and legal system fails our children as it is notoriously difficult to get convictions when it comes to sexual abuse of children unless there is medical evidence or other compelling proof.

The statement of the child is not given weight both by parents and the law. This must all change.

The initial trauma of a young child may go underground but it will return to haunt us.
James Garbarino

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