ChoraChori Blog

ChoraChori

Read our Blog

ChoraChori successfully supports conviction of child rapist

ChoraChori has successfully supported the prosecution of a child rapist in Nepal – the first of many.

A Nepali Times article from last month highlighted how in Nepal cases of reported rape have quadrupled in the last ten years. Over half of the victims are children and one in five are under the age of ten. Sadly, due to a combination of factors, the prosecution rate has been very low and that is something we intend to address. And we have had our first success in this regard.

Thirteen year old Karuna (name changed) lived with her family in a rented room in a village in east Nepal. Suresh Kumar, aged 40, lived next door. Karuna often called him “uncle” and he was trusted by the family.  One afternoon earlier this year Kumar invited Karuna over to his place where he raped her. He threatened to kill Karuna if she told anyone about it but she was brave enough to tell her mother who filed a complaint with the police and Kumar was arrested.

After the incident, Karuna became frightened of reprisals from Kumar’s family and, together with having to contend with the stigma associated with rape, she felt the need to move out for a while and until Kumar was prosecuted. We admitted Karuna to our psychosocial support programme at our children trauma management centre which is within our Kathmandu refuge. There she was also able to take part in craft and income generation activities (see title picture).

Our legal team became involved too, verifying statements and supporting Karuna through the daunting prospect of court hearings and ensuring that the government prosecutor was well prepared. Last week Kumar was sentenced to ten years in prison and ordered to pay 50,000 Nepalese rupees (£350) to the family. This might seem like a paltry sum however ten years in a Nepali prison is a very unpleasant prospect and a step in the right direction. We will call for much tougher sentencing in future.

 

Rape at an Indian children’s shelter

In our blog post of 30th April we reported on our rescue of three Nepali girls from an Indian children’s shelter at Muzaffarpur. This followed months of negotiation and three visits to overcome what seemed at the time to be insurmountable bureaucracy. Now we know the reason for this obstructive behaviour. As we suspected, the shelter had something to hide. According to a media report in today’s Times of India eight staff members have been arrested on charges of sexual abuse and rape. Two men, one of whom heads up the NGO that runs the shelter and the other a member of the local Child Welfare Committee, have been charged with rape. It will take time for the full scale of the horror to be revealed as there were 46 (Indian) minors at the shelter who will need to be interviewed and counselled by the Indian authorities. However, media reports elsewhere suggest that the female staff were complicit too, forcing girls into same-sex activity.

ChoraChori has rescued a total of six Nepali girls from this shelter over the past year, four of whom are still being supported at our children’s refuge and trauma management centre in Kathmandu. Sadly, this is unlikely to be an isolated case which explains why our cross-border rescue programme is so vitally important.

Please help us to continue what we do by donating through the button below.

donate to ChoraChori

 

Siblings reunited!

ChoraChori reunites displaced Nepali children with their families, but for once they have also reunited runaway siblings.

In an earlier post we told how in late April the ChoraChori rescue team had repatriated 11 Nepali children from shelters at Muzzafarpur, Bihar, north India. On that particular operation we had hoped to rescue a further six children from a different shelter at Darbanga but we had been unable to overcome bureaucratic hurdles. Those six children were finally brought home to Nepal last week, freeing them from de facto imprisonment. See the backdrop to the accompanying picture.

The boys arrived late at night at our transit shelter in Kathmandu and were straight away served a hot meal at the end of their long journey. But one of them, Umesh, was in for a surprise. For in walked his little seven year old sister, Rupu, whom we’d brought back from the previous rescue. He thought that after they became separated in India he’d never see her again and he was reduced to tears (see title picture).

The really hard work begins now. These siblings fled to India to escape an abusive alcoholic stepfather, their father in prison for murder. We will have to investigate how we can find alternative, safe, long term care arrangements for Umesh and Rupu, ideally elsewhere within the extended family.

 

 

No justice for child rape victims in Nepal – quite the opposite

Child rape victim betrayed in Nepal

After she was raped Radhika (name changed) sought support from village elders. It is hard to comprehend the decision that the elders took, supporting the rapist rather than the victim.

At the end of last month 15 year old Radhika felt very happy as she was returning home from a marriage ceremony. It had been a lovely celebration. In life, she had a great deal to look forward to, having just completed her grade 10 examinations. But as she was about to enter her house she was grabbed by a man who dragged her off to a nearby field. Stifling her cries for help with her shawl, he raped her three times.  No one heard the commotion as others had gone to the wedding too. It was only when Radhika’s eleven year old brother came looking for her that her assailant ran off. Radhika’s parents were away at the time as her mother was having an operation. So for five days she didn’t have their support and was too frightened to tell anyone what had happened. Eventually she confided in an aunt.

After his return, the girl’s father appealed for justice to the all-male “panchayat“, the village assembly. After three days the panchayat ruled unanimously that Radhika should marry her attacker. The committee members reasoned that there was no alternative as no one else would want to marry a rape victim and, conveniently, both victim and assailant were single. Worse still, Radhika’s father would have to pay her attacker a dowry of 300,000 rupees (£2,000), negotiated down by her father from an original suggestion of 500,000 rupees. The father felt that he had no alternative but to comply with the ruling for fear of being thrown out of the village.

Radhika’s family are not well-off – her father sells cosmetics from a roadside stall. He asked his neighbours for a loan but few would help him. In the end he had to sell his land to raise the dowry. A date of 12th May was set for the wedding with the father due to pay the rapist four days beforehand. However when he went to the rapist’s home he found that both he and his father had gone missing. At this point he did what he should have done in the first place and went to the police, filing a formal complaint against his daughter’s attacker. He also contacted the local media, telling them “I have been belittled by everyone because I am poor. They didn’t allow me to make decisions and I had to agree to what they said. But now I will not tolerate this and I will fight for my daughter’s rights. I need everyone’s help in this.”

In this case, “everyone” has included ChoraChori in Nepal. As it is too dangerous for Radhika to remain in her own village (witnesses to crime can go missing), we have admitted her to our refuge in Kathmandu where she is receiving support through our child trauma management centre. We will do all that we can to track down her assailant and bring him to justice. The panchayat has realised its mistake in that it should not have ruled on a criminal case and has promised to support us in finding the attacker. Meantime Radhika can stay with us for as long as is necessary and we will ensure that she has a chance to complete her education.

Radhika is the third child rape victim that we have admitted to our refuge in the past three weeks. We are investigating the circumstances of nine other cases, one of whom is an eight month old baby. Last week a ChoraChori field team successfully disrupted a child marriage ceremony that was being rushed through with an £800 dowry. And the next day directed the police to arrest another child rapist who had returned from India, thinking it was safe to do so.

If you would like to join us in helping Radhika and her family, please donate using the button below – and share. Thank you.

donate to ChoraChori

 

ChoraChori rescues 11 Nepali children from India

Return to Nepal

Shailaja CM, the Operational Director of ChoraChori in Nepal, looks tired as she arrives at our Kathmandu refuge from her latest child rescue operation to India. These seven new children that she has retrieved brings the number of children that ChoraChori has rescued from India to 118.

This past week has been a very busy one for ChoraChori with 11 new children joining our refuge in Kathmandu.

The week began with our friends at ChildLine India in Gorakhpur bringing four displaced Nepali boys directly to our refuge in Kathmandu. Two of the boys have spent three years in India, one of them passing through three children’s shelters in that time. After they had settled in, our rescue team went to Bihar to retrieve some more children leaving refuge staff to care for the first four and begin the process of tracing their families. This has led to an early success with one of the four boys, who suffers from quite severe autism, being reunited. His father was very happy to accept him back; this is not always the case with disabled children.

The rescue team went to two centres in Bihar, north India, Chapra and Muzaffarpur. At Chapra they were able to secure the release of four more boys, three of whom are pictured above. Often children run away from family poverty, seeking a better life in India, but this does not seem to have been the case with these boys. One boy’s father owns two houses. It seems that these children almost left home on a whim or to get away from school. In any case, prospects for family reunification look very good. Another boy’s uncle had gone to Chapra previously to try and get his nephew and been turned away. It helps the process immensely when families show such prior motivation to find their children.

At Muzaffarpur Shailaja and her colleague, Anila, finally brought three Nepali girls to freedom. It has taken months of negotiation and three visits to achieve this result, overcoming what seemed at times like insurmountable bureaucracy. One of the girls is six years old and has spent three years in Indian children’s shelters. She fled to India with her older brother to escape an abusive stepfather. Her actual father was in prison for murder and this may still be his situation. Clearly cases such as this require more time and effort but these new refuge children are all in the best of care now.

We are very grateful to all those supporters who donated to us in The Big Give Christmas Challenge and in doing so have allowed this vital work to go forward.

A man amongst mushrooms

Growing mushrooms at our Kathmandu refuge

The boys and girls at our Kathmandu refuge have been getting their hands dirty recently as we have embarked upon a new income generation activity: mushroom cultivation!

Mushrooms are grown quite widely in Nepal. They are a high value crop that can grow in areas where the land quality – or total absence of soil – prevents other forms of agricultural production.

Supported by ChoraChori-UK visitors Ben and Toby (isn’t that a type of ice cream?), the girls have been learning how to grow oyster mushrooms. The technique involves soaking and sterilising straw before converting this into balls that are inoculated with the mushroom spawn. All you need then is a dark space, modest watering and patience for two or three weeks to allow the first of three yields to appear.

Two small unused sheds at the refuge have been rodent-proofed for the first 80 mushroom balls. A piece of adjacent land has been cleared and levelled for a third shed that will be made from bamboo. As you can see the first attempt has been a great success with plenty of mushrooms growing that can help feed the refuge children with a surplus available for sale. The Tipling girls now have yet another skill to take back to their village after they have completed their education!

 

ChoraChori supports child rape victim

ChoraChori supports child rape victim

ChoraChori has admitted a victim of child rape to our child trauma management centre in Kathmandu. We will support this child and her family, while making every effort to bring her assailant to justice.

Last evening 12 year old Anita (not her real name) and her family came to our trauma centre along with her parents and social activist Sabitri Subedi. In recent weeks we have been working closely with Sabitri as she fights for the rights of girls who have been victim of sexual violence on Nepal’s southern plains. Anita, who comes from a village in Sarlahi District (circled) is one such victim; she was raped last weekend. The scenario is all too familiar as child rape is very common in remote areas of Nepal. Often the assailant is a family member but on this occasion the alleged assailant is a very wealthy and influential man within the District.

Anita comes from a Dalit (“untouchable”) family who speak only Maithili, the language of an ethnic community that lives in Sarlahi and in Bihar, north India. The family is very poor with the father working away from home as a rickshaw driver in Birgunj. Last Sunday evening her mother travelled to Birgunj to meet her husband while Anita remained at home with her brother. In what appears to have been a premeditated attack, a friend of the accused called at Anita’s home and invited her brother to go for a short walk. As soon as they were gone the alleged assailant abducted Anita and raped her in a nearby field. Anita fainted. After she recovered consciousness she made her way back to her hut, bleeding profusely. When her brother returned to find his sister covered in blood he immediately called their parents who rushed back to the village, arriving on Monday morning. They filed a complaint at the local police station and then took Anita to a local health post for treatment as she was still bleeding.

The accused is also a Dalit, however he is rich and powerful man in the District. He has been missing since the incident. On returning to the village with their daughter locals tried to convince the family to drop the case and accept a large settlement (50 lakh rupees – £33k), however Anita’s father was adamant that they would not accept the money. Local politicians and villagers then began to put pressure on the family to resolve the issue through a local panchayat (assembly), arguing that it should be resolved within the village and that it would not help the family if news of the case spread further afield.

After reaching the village Sabitri spoke to the family and was approached by the police, officials and villagers who, on assuming that she was a representative of an NGO in Kathmandu, proceeded to offer her 5 lakh (£3k) if she could convince the family to accept the ‘compensation’ and drop the case. Sabitri felt that under these circumstances it would be impossible for the family to get legal justice from the village. The family were also feeling very threatened and vulnerable as the village is very isolated, being 5 kilometres walk from the nearest town. Therefore she decided that it would be best for Anita and her family if they were to leave the village in secret. They did so yesterday morning and arrived at our centre in the evening.

Today ChoraChori will be approaching police headquarters in Kathmandu to explain the situation and file a formal complaint. In our experience the police in Kathmandu are much better at prosecuting cases properly. The assailant – and his accomplice – cannot be allowed to escape justice through bribery, informal “settlement” and cover up. Meantime we will provide Anita with all the professional support she needs at our residential centre, through our staff psychosocial counsellor, Sailu Rajbhandari.

 

ChoraChori’s schools’ projects for 2018

Support to schools is a key element of ChoraChori’s work in Nepal. This will continue to be the case this year as we reach out to new schools in Kathmandu valley and beyond!

Historically we have rebuilt primary schools that were destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and supported Kitini College, one of the best state secondary schools in Nepal. This year we plan capital projects at Shree Buddha and Shree Ganesh Secondary Schools in Kathmandu valley and at Indreni Secondary School which lies in Panchthar District, east Nepal.

Shree Buddha Secondary School has an attendance of 350 pupils and lies in a rural village in Lele, Lalitpur District, close to Kathmandu. The village has no piped water supply and the villagers and students rely on river water. Recently this water has turned muddy because of contamination from nearby brick kiln factories. To make matters worse there are no toilets in the school and children use the bank of the river for open defecation. Bodies are even cremated on the opposite river bank. With Kathmandu valley already prone to cholera outbreaks (as a result of faecal contamination of water supplies) this is a disaster waiting to happen. Also, the lack of toilets is given as a major reason for girls dropping out of school after they reach puberty or for non-attendance during menstruation. Accordingly, the Principal of the school has asked if we can help with the construction of boys’ and girls’ toilets, the installation of water tanks and a water purifier. See the film above to find out more.

Shree Ganesh secondary school is attended by 147 pupils and also lies in an outlying village in Kathmandu valley. Most of the students come from the highly marginalised Danuwar community. The majority of the students are girls (85 girls vs 62 boys). This is a reflection of parental discrimination in that they choose to invest what money they have in their sons by sending them to better resourced private schools. So, their daughters have to attend Shree Ganesh school which, for example, teaches computing even though it has only two functioning antiquated computers. This kind of under-resourcing is scandalous, but by no means unusual in Nepal government schools. We would like to redress the educational imbalance by providing the school with 10 new computers that will allow the set up of a computer laboratory and the transformation of the students’ options.

The third school is Indreni Secondary School which lies in Panchthar District, in east Nepal (pictured above). It has 478 students in Grades 1-12 and, once again, the vast majority of pupils are girls (298 girls vs 180 boys). Seventy percent of students are from the scheduled “janajati” castes, including a large proportion of Dalit children (“untouchables”). As per Shree Ganesh School, there are no computer facilities and we would like to set up a computer laboratory with 10 new computers.

These developments will cost us £12,546 and we already have £2,500 in place thanks to our friends at Hatemalo. If you’d like to help us level the educational playing field for boys and girls in Nepal then please support us through the button below.donate to ChoraChori

A fairy tale ending for Bikram?

Displaced Nepali boy Bikram overjoyed to find his family roots.

When ChoraChori field staff took Bikram to Lamjung District this week to trace his family he was in for some surprises.

In December 2015 twelve year old Bikram Dulal wasn’t at all convinced that he wanted to return to Nepal. He was one of 29 children that ChoraChori was repatriating after rescuing them from hideous “children’s shelters” in Delhi. But Bikram had very little to return to. Or so he thought.

He came originally from a village in hilly Lamjung District, several hours’ drive to the west of Kathmandu. When he was four years old his father had gone off in search of work and just disappeared. His mother then left Bikram and his sister with her father and went her own way. Unfortunately his grandfather was an alcoholic and, neglected, Bikram drifted into a life on the streets. He roamed around the District town of Besisahar for several years, stealing when necessary, before he and some other boys decided they would try their luck in India. That journey ended with imprisonment in the children’s shelter in Delhi.

ChoraChori always tries to reunite children with their families and Bikram’s case proved to be one of the more difficult ones. This explains why he has been with us for just over two years. He maintained that he knew nothing about his father’s side of the family and that he had nothing to return to in Lamjung. It took a lot of convincing for him to set off on Wednesday this week with ChoraChori staff Shailaja and Anila to try and trace his family.

The trip involved a lot of detective work and some good fortune. First they found his mother’s sister who was working in a café in Besisahar. She directed them to the mother’s family home but en route they met Bikram’s maternal grandfather. It was 1 p.m. and he was already drunk. However he was able to tell the team where Bikram’s father’s family lived, a village called Kunchha. There they found the family home where Bikram met his grandmother (pictured above) and discovered that his real surname was Ghaire, not Dulal. He also met his aunt who was able to tell him that his sister was staying with another aunt in a different town. Bikram’s father had been the only son so Bikram was now the owner of a small plot of land (pictured left)! Everyone was overjoyed at seeing him again as indeed was Bikram at the interactions.

We have agreed that Bikram should return to our refuge to allow him to complete his Grade 6 at the local school. After that he can return to his family where his late father’s cousin will look after him with a little support from us to cover educational expenses. His family will also follow up obtaining his citizenship papers and inheritance rights.

What a result!

Vocational training success!

Uday completes his vocational training and starts a first job.

When ChoraChori rescued runaway Uday from India at the start of 2017 he had nothing, least of all a family, to return to. Now he has a vocational training certificate and a job to show for his diligence and our support.

Uday was one of 33 children whom ChoraChori rescued from India in March 2017. We have successfully reunited most with their families but were left with a residual challenge; what to do with those whose families couldn’t be found or where there was no functional family unit to return to? We always prioritise academic education but some returnees lack the ability to succeed in school or have been out of the system for just too long to have any prospect of catch up. For such children we consider vocational training options, both in-house and contracted out.

Last August we placed two lads at the highly regarded Sano Thimi vocational training college in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Unfortunately one of them packed his bags a few weeks later and left in the night for reasons unknown. The other, Uday, stuck with the course and has now passed the college exams, securing a first division pass at 77.8%. He has moved seamlessly into his first job as a light vehicle service mechanic at a workshop where he is excited to be earning a salary. Two more refuge boys, Raja and Prakash, are following in his wake as they embark on a six month residential course, also to become light service vehicle mechanics (pictured left). Like Uday, they know nothing of their families’ whereabouts and now is their chance to make good too.

In three days’ time a third refuge boy, Youshan, will be joining a six month Culinary Arts course at the Global Academy of Tourism and Hospitality Education (GATE). Graduates from GATE are guaranteed jobs in top hotels in Nepal and abroad, so the world could soon by Youshan’s oyster.

Training and hostel fees for Raja and Prakash costs £500 each, while Youshan’s course and support costs will be £1,150. If you can help us by becoming a short term sponsor, a champion, for one of these boys then please contact Philip Holmes using the button below.

 

 

 

CONTACT US!

If you would like to find out more or join our mailing list please get in touch