Our manifesto for 2020!

2019 has been a remarkable year so far for ChoraChori in Nepal; we’re aiming higher in 2020.

 Girls in the garden of ChoraChori’s Child Trauma Management Centre in Kathmandu

At a time when the UK is gripped with enthusiasm (not) at the prospect of a pre-Christmas general election, it is perhaps timely to illustrate what we have achieved in the real world in the past year and present our brief and achievable manifesto for 2020. Please take a few minutes to review this no-frills document that highlights ChoraChori achievements and objectives and think about how you might be able to help us.

Do remember that we do not receive any government funding and are entirely reliant on grants and donations, including through gifts in wills.

Any ideas, please do send them to ChoraChori’s Founder, Philip Holmes.

 

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.

“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.

Theraplay in Nepal

With a vital training input from volunteer consultant Debbie Mintz, ChoraChori has started using theraplay as a powerful therapeutic tool at its child trauma management centre in Kathmandu.

In the past week ChoraChori has admitted a ninth victim of child rape to its child trauma management facility in Kathmandu. The task of therapeutic management of children who have experienced almost unbelievable horrors, including at Indian “children’s shelters”, is a daunting one. Our local staff are very highly trained but remain open to new therapeutic approaches that can help them meet the challenge of restoring children’s confidence in themselves and in humanity. Accordingly, we have been delighted to receive the very timely British volunteer consultant support of Debbie Mintz who has trained staff in the technique of theraplay.

Theraplay is a proactive, intensive, relationship-focused therapy, modelled on the natural patterns of early healthy interactions between parents and infant; the kind that lead to secure attachment and lifelong good mental health. Theraplay is uniquely suited to the treatment of complex trauma in children because the model focuses on developing a secure base, strong attachments, concrete guidance, support and nurturing. These are the foundations from which a child can utilise natural reparative mechanisms, address their traumatic history, and have a restorative experience.

Whilst theraplay treatment is often carried out with children and their parents, it is very suitable for use with children whose primary relationships have broken down. With an attuned therapist guiding the child sequentially through phases of treatment, safety and security are first established in the relationship, allowing trauma to be addressed directly, and finally allowing social reconnection with others. Theraplay functions to create a sense of safety for the child by anchoring them in a nurturing, safe, and structured relationship, thus addressing attachment concerns first. Once children establish a sense of feeling connected to one important other, the trauma work can proceed with greater ease since the emotional foundation is set.

The benefit has been immediate and dramatic. Debbie writes:

I have been in Nepal for almost two weeks now and my experiences have not necessarily met my expectations. Teaching the therapists here to use theraplay as a part of their therapeutic model was a pleasure and easier than I expected. They have a natural warmth, compassion and intuition that makes them ideally suited to the attachment-focused theraplay model. Beginning theraplay sessions with the children has been deeply moving and has not taken the course I expected at all. The usual curiosity that I see in children in the UK is very much present, but the natural resistance that often comes with it is not. I will have to think more about why this is, but my initial instinct is that these children are so desperate for safety and nurture that having found physical care and security with the dedicated staff at ChoraChori, they have almost been waiting for the engagement and nurture of theraplay. We have already seen remarkable results. Within the first week children unexpectedly and spontaneously shared previously undisclosed traumatic experiences of the most severe nature to their trusted therapists. This seems to have come much more speedily than expected on the safe foundations that the close and attuned interactions of theraplay have provided.

ChoraChori is making a very strong start into an area of childcare where few organisations and charities wish to venture; it is just too difficult, too harrowing and too demanding of a long term commitment. But alongside our partner Unity in Health we are laying the foundations of a therapeutic service that is so badly needed in Nepal given the scale of the problem that we need to address.

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.

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Attempted rape in Tipling

ChoraChori-Nepal has intervened in a case of attempted rape in Tipling, Dhading District, ensuring that the police filed a case against the girl’s attacker. 

Since June 2016 ChoraChori has been supporting the education of girls from Tipling, which lies close to the Tibet border in Dhading District. This had been the scene of widespread devastation after the 2015 earthquakes. In spite of passing the challenging Grade 10 School Leaver’s Certificate (SLC) exams girls from this community could take their education no further. For them, the nearest school was three hours’ walk away. So we gave these motivated girls a chance to complete Grades 11 and 12 by bringing the to our Kathmandu refuge and enrolling them at the nearby excellent state school, Kitini College. At the end of last year we added a string to their bow by teaching them craft skills. As well as excelling at school the girls have been earning money by selling their craft products in Holland and Germany.

This has been particularly gratifying as the girls – who are mainly from the marginalised Tamang ethnic community – were very vulnerable even before the earthquakes. It is common practice for girls to be abducted by aspiring husbands (this can lead to rape) who then subsequently arrange a “marriage” with the girl’s family. One of the girls whom we brought down to Kathmandu had run away from this scenario three times. And of course, in that area there wasn’t much law enforcement, least of all after the earthquakes.

ChoraChori-Nepal CEO Bhaskar Karki meeting with Parbati’s family

On Sunday Bhaskar Karki, ChoraChori-Nepal CEO (pictured left) took a call from a Catholic priest in Tipling asking for ChoraChori-Nepal support. A 35 year old NGO worker had allegedly attempted to rape a partially sighted 14 year old Tamang girl, Parbati (name changed) who had been orphaned five years ago. She has 5 or 6 older siblings and been staying with her 22 year old brother. He is away most days working as a porter. The assailant – who had allegedly previously molested both Parbati and her older sister – allegedly seized Parbati during a visit to her home last Saturday after finding her alone. She told us how she fought him off with a kick to the crotch and hit him with a kettle before screaming for help. Local villagers caught the man and took him to Dhading police station. Parbati is a feisty girl and was determined to bring him to book by giving evidence against him. The situation at the police station became very tense with the assailant’s friends turning up in an attempt to intimidate the police and influence them so that a case would not be registered. They argued that what had happened was normal practice in Tipling area.

Bhaskar downed tools straight away and went with one of our field staff, Pratap Titung, to support Parbati. In spite of yesterday being a public holiday, they managed to find a lawyer who has been interviewing the girl and her family. Today the police filed the case against the man. It remains to be seen if he is remanded in custody or gets bail. Parbati is going to remain with her family for now but she is likely to join our programme when the next group of new students comes to the refuge.

For sure, whatever the outcome of the case, we have already helped send out a powerful message that young men in the mountains of Dhading are not above the law and rape is rape. A message that is being echoed around the world these days, including in Hollywood.

 

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