EDITORIAL: Prevent child abuse

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It’s hard to gauge the magnitude of the paedophilia problem but is said to have increased after the 2015 earthquake

In the last few years, more than a dozen foreigners have been arrested for paedophilia in the country, the latest being a 60-year-old Frenchman, Christia Serge Henri Nougaret, from Pokhara. He has been accused of sexually abusing three young boys aged 12, eight and seven years, and faces two charges – child sex abuse and sodomy – in court.

According to the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police, the French citizen, a computer engineer and a frequent visitor to the country since the past 16 years, had bribed the boys from poor families with sweets, money and electronic gadgets in exchange for sexual favours. The increasing cases of paedophilia involving foreigners in the country are cause for worry. Given Nepal’s lax laws, abject poverty and the readiness with which foreigners are welcomed to any part of the country, there is every threat of the country turning into a haven for paedophiles.

While Nepal tries to give a warm hug to anyone wanting to visit or help this country, not everyone seems to be coming here with good intention, not even high-profile people. The year 2018 saw the arrest of a Canadian, Peter Dalgish, a former UN official who had served as country representative at UN Habitat Afghanistan, in Kavre. He was sentenced to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of paedophilia.

He had even received the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour. According to police, most of the arrested foreign paedophiles are Western white males in their forties. It’s hard to gauge the magnitude of the paedophilia problem but is said to have increased especially after the destructive earthquake of 2015 that pushed a big chunk of the population into poverty.

Posing as Good Samaritans, they are known to visit quake-hit areas with promises of financial assistance to set up orphanages, schools and child care homes. It’s indeed surprising that there are today more than 600 orphanages in the country. And quite a few child care homes and orphanages have been shut down after reports of child abuse and even circulation of child pornography from these sites.

It is high time Nepal gave priority to tackling the problem of paedophilia, especially involving foreigners.

The Criminal Code Act of Nepal does have provisions of harsh punishment for sexually abusing children, including life sentence for those found guilty of sodomising children below eight years of age. However, its weak implementation does not act as a sufficient deterrent. With great possibility to get off the hook after getting caught, organised pedophile rings could be targeting Nepal to dispatch their members.

There is, thus, a need for greater coordination with Interpol to keep known paedophiles from travelling, as some of the offenders are known to have come to Nepal time and again even after facing legal action for paedophilia charges back home. Incorporating issues of sexual abuse in the school curricula, as suggested by some activists, could help children to differentiate between abuse and love. As for the society, it must keep close watch of its children and report any suspicious activity to the police if it is to stay safe from such predators.


Grant for tea

Nepal has a suitable climate for growing tea both in the hills and the Tarai region. Nepal’s organic tea, which is one of the country’s major exports, is in high demand in the international market. According to Nepal Commercial Tea Cultivation Survey carried out in 2018, the country produces around 22 million kilos of tea annually in 14 districts, covering an area of about 30,000 hectares. Around 90 per cent of the organic tea is exported to various developed countries.

Considering its huge potential for further growth, the National Tea and Coffee Development Board has recently decided to provide 50 per cent grant to tea growers if they plant it on a minimum of 50 ropanis of land. Providing grants or subsidy may be one kind of incentive to the tea growers. But they also need technical support for its steady growth. The government should encourage big companies to invest in this sector, which may also help generate income opportunities and lift millions of rural people out of poverty. But most of the existing tea estates operating in the country are suffering from financial crisis, and the tea pickers quite often resort to strikes over non-payment of their wages on time, thanks to the government’s inconsistent policy.

 

 

 


A version of this article appears in print on December 03, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.


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