Final words on “As a Tiger in the Jungle” – and the future challenge for ChoraChori

Nepal performers Aman Tamang and Renu Ghalan in circus performanceBetween April and June 2019, contemporary circus show “As a Tiger in the Jungle” enjoyed a hugely successful tour of top venues across England and Wales, including the Glastonbury Festival. Nepalese performers Aman and Renu have now returned to Nepal but leave behind a powerful legacy of memorable performances and poignant messages.

Through “As a Tiger in the Jungle” Aman and Renu shared their experience of being trafficked from Nepal into slavery as “child performers”. See this previous blog post that gives the detail of this remarkable production. Between performances, they would take time out to give interviews on television and radio, ensuring that their message wasn’t confined only to those who attended the shows. Click on the image above to see their appearance on BBC Southeast during their visit to Brighton.

In May they laid on a special charity performance at Stratford Circus in London in support of ChoraChori’s Big Give summer appeal. Afterwards, ChoraChori Founder Philip Holmes addressed the audience in which he reflected on his organisation’s previous rescue work of Philip Holmes, Founder ChoraChorihundreds of children, including Aman and Renu, and how the contemporary circus training had started out in 2011. Then he called for public support for the greater challenge that lies ahead, as ChoraChori tackles the burgeoning issue of child rape in Nepal. When you read press articles such as this one from last week’s Kathmandu Post, it brings sharply into focus just how much needs to be done – even in ensuring appropriate police management of survivors. You can see an extract of Philip’s speech by clicking on his image above.

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ChoraChori’s legal team fighting child rape cases in Nepal

ChoraChori’s support to child rape victims in Nepal includes ensuring that they obtain justice.

ChoraChori provides support to child rape victims and their families in Nepal that includes protection, material support (children from low caste families are often vulnerable through extreme poverty) and psychosocial counselling at our Children’s Refuge and Rehabilitation Centre in Kathmandu. But an equally important element is ensuring that victims are able to access justice and that legal cases are prosecuted properly in the courts rather than being “resolved” through illegal financial settlements between the rapist and the victim’s family. Victims may come under huge pressure to take this option by threats or even with the encouragement of NGOs or the police. See this link.

In Nepal the punishment for rape can be quite severe; indeed, a couple of months ago a child rapist was given a life sentence with the instruction that life should mean life. The challenge is to get cases registered in the first place and to ensure witness protection and support through the legal procedures and in the courtroom itself. We have two staff lawyers who have been dealing with 16 rape cases, five of these being gang rapes. So far there have been nine convictions (all involving jail sentences), the most recent being on the 17th March when a rapist was given an eight year prison sentence and ordered to pay 50,000 rupees (£350) to his victim.

Nevertheless, to see successful convictions our legal team has to be prepared for postponement of hearings, procedural failings and ineptitude. But his is nothing compared to how victims – traumatised children – still have to run the gauntlet of intrusive questioning in public situations and in hostile male-dominated environments such as at police stations and in the courts themselves. This parallels the experience in India where there is a risk of rapists escaping justice through little girls being unable to describe what has happened to them either because of the trauma or through lack of the necessary vocabulary. See this report on ganda kaam (“dirty work”) that has appeared in the India media. This relates to the Muzaffarpur children’s shelter sex abuse scandal, a location from which we rescued Nepali girls last year.

So much more needs to be done in both countries to ensure that child rape victims are dealt with sensitively and that justice prevails. And through our legal support we also need to make the point that rapists cannot act with impunity.

Community-based care in Nepal?

ChoraChori’s field team has rescued a child rape victim who was failed by family and community in east Nepal.

The 12 year old girl pictured left is from Phidim, the principal town of Panchthar District. Her miserable life stands in stark contrast to the dramatic natural beauty of Nepal’s most eastern District. She is homeless because, although her mother is alive and well, she is unwelcome at her step-father’s home. Therefore she has been wandering around the community, surviving by taking on domestic chores in return for food and shelter, her overnight accommodation being often nothing more than cow-sheds.

Panchthar lies within Nepal’s Province No 1, the Province with the highest rates of reported rape at 8.5 per 100,000 of population in the period July 17 to June 18. ChoraChori is currently analysing why this should be so, but in the meantime we are dealing with the consequences.

Tragically, this little girl became one of the statistics from last year. Her rapist has already been convicted and we will fight for him to remain in jail should this come to an appeal. But meantime we are working with the village authority to allow her transfer into our care in Kathmandu. She is of course severely traumatised by her experiences and we will need to manage the trauma as well as offer her a place of safety at our refuge.

So often we hear from respected authorities that children belong with families and communities. It’s not as easy as that in remote parts of Nepal and clearly in this case that arrangement has failed with such dire consequences; it is time for us to intervene and protect this child properly.

Next week you have an opportunity to do something to help this girl and the many others that ChoraChori has rescued. You can join me in making a donation towards our work through The Big Give Christmas Challenge through which all online donations will automatically be doubled in value. Please don’t donate now. If you leave us your e mail address here we will send you a reminder when the Appeal goes live.

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“She was this small”

The ChoraChori-Nepal field team is intervening in support of an impoverished Nepalese family whose 8 year old daughter, Chanda, was raped and murdered.

Her face wet with tears, a Nepalese mother holds her hand up for our field team. “She was this small” she said.

Last month the woman and her husband went out to a festival as part of the Dashain celebrations, the highlight of the Hindu calendar. While they were out, two men lured their daughter away with the promise of noodles and ten rupees. When the parents returned home they could only hope that their missing daughter had gone to visit relatives. But next morning Chanda’s body was found in a nearby paddy field.

The rapists were quickly identified as neighbours had seen the men returning home, muddied and drunk. The police arrested them and ChoraChori was notified of the family’s plight. They are from the historically downtrodden Madhesi community and live in a very dilapidated house (see cover picture) in the south of the country, not far from Janakpur. The father is a labourer, whose paltry earnings have to feed his wife, two surviving daughters and two sons, the youngest of whom is two. They are very poor, owning only a buffalo and one item of “furniture”, the bed pictured left. The family is in no financial position to engage in a legal battle to get justice for their daughter. That is often the way of it in Nepal’s southern plains where rape victims are frequently from low caste, very poor families. Rapists can be from higher castes and can buy their way off the hook.

ChoraChori acted quickly with our legal team attending court to ensure that the rapists’ application for bail was refused. They remain in judicial custody and we will support the case all the way to conviction. In this regard the local community is fully behind us as the assailants were already notorious for their criminal behaviour. Meanwhile we will fund the education of Chanda’s siblings, none of whom attend school, doing what we can to empower them in this way.

You can help too. Next week our Christmas Appeal begins with The Big Give which launches at noon on the 27th November. For one week all online donations towards our vital work in Nepal will double in value. But please don’t donate now! If you would like a reminder when the Appeal goes live just take a moment to register here.

Thank you.

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.

 

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