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Are we failing our children?

The news of the three under-14 girls, who have been facing repeated sexual assault where they ought to have been most safe, is disquieting. The alleged perpetrator of the despicable crime on these minors is their 83-year-old great-grandfather.

The stepmother of the 13-year-old girl believes that the child could have been raped by her maternal great-grandfather since the age of four. Medical examination found that one of the siblings was indeed raped and that the signs were not from recent penetration.

The children were so traumatised that they finally decided to open up to the school counsellors what lies in wait for them at home after school. It was established that the family with no reliable source of income had to depend of the perpetrator of the crime who seized upon the situation and began ill-treating them. He even threatened the parents of the children using abusive language.

Besides the parents who could not report to anyone because they were compelled to keep shut, the community residents too knew what was going on in the house. One does not have to look far why no authorities were alerted about this particular case in Trashigang. An NCWC assessment found that sixty percent of the perpetrators involved in sexual violence against children are someone known to them; 15.56 percent of the perpetrators included biological father, relatives, and siblings.

The fact that sexual crimes are increasingly being reported may be a sign that counselling and reporting systems are working. The commission has plans to install Toll Free Helpline Services (1098) in October to provide 24/7 counselling and immediate referral services for women and children in need of care and support. Although late to initiate, such initiatives will go a long way in stopping sexual crime against women and children and in helping victims recover from traumatic experiences.

While the mother and the girls are in Thimphu for further medical examinations, it is learnt that the man is walking scot-free. Some are of the view that the man is too old to be brought before the law. Old or young, the perpetrator of the crime must face the law. Otherwise, we would be failing our children.

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