Child sexual violence on rise in Thimphu

Child sexual violence is on the rise in the capital. The number of reported cases has been consistently increasing. Since 2021, more than 130 such cases have been recorded with the national referral hospital. This year already saw 15 cases related to child sexual violence from January to March.

Child sexual violence is a type of child abuse including physical violence, emotional violence, neglect, and exploitation.

The One-Stop Crisis Centre for victims of violence and abuse at the national referral hospital which provides an easy-to-access and private space for medical treatment and forensic investigation, saw an increasing number of cases over the years.

In 2021, the department recorded 39 cases of child sexual violence.

The number of reported cases slightly increased to 40 in 2022.

And last year, a significant increase was seen, with 53 cases reported.

This year, already 15 cases have been reported in just the first three months.

“As per the findings of the nationwide research done by UNICEF, every six out of ten children have experienced some form of physical violence and then 12 per cent of children have experienced sexual violence. In our case, we have the One-Stop Crisis Centre where we only manage the cases that are in Thimphu region but we do get cases referred from other districts as well,” said Dr Gyan Gurung, Department Head of Forensics  Medicine and Toxicology, JDWNRH.

The centre has received cases where children as young as five years old up to eighteen years old were brought for medical examination. Most of the victims are female students.

“If we look at international literature what they say is usually the perpetrators are known to the child. So even in our case, usually it is someone within the family or neighbours. It’s not published data but we do see rise in sexual violence in winter breaks when children are not engaged in school activities,” said Dr Gyan Gurung.

According to the centre, children arrive with injuries that vary in age; some are healing, and others are fresh or healed, suggesting ongoing abuse.

“Sexual violence is a really sensitive issue which most of the parents might hesitate to come forward but we would like to say to the people that if you see any of these cues and findings on your child,  parents should come forward and have them examined. We have 24-hour services in the One-Stop Crisis Centre,” added Dr Gyan Gurung.

To address the rising number of cases, the national referral hospital is planning to expand the services of the One-Stop Crisis Centre in regional hospitals. It also intends to identify forensic focal persons in all districts to train in handling cases of child abuse and sexual violence.

Intern (Sonam Pelkid)

Edited by Kipchu

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