KATHMANDU, Sept 12: With an increasing number of pedophilia cases surfacing in Nepal in recent years, officials concerned have pointed to various factors such as poverty, weak laws and inducements as being behind the phenomenon.
Given their weak financial circumstances, limited opportunities and lack of knowledge, families are not robust in shielding their children from exposure to the menace of pedophilia, according to experts.
Children are vulnerable to offenders who come in search of easy prey to Nepal, where rural people in search of work, schooling and other opportunities converge in the urban areas, the experts said.
Also, according to CWIN (Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Centre), an NGO working for child rights, reports related to pedophilia among Nepalis are increasing rapidly in recent years.
In a recent operation carried out by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police, a US citizen identified as Kenneth Joseph Coombs was arrested and boys aged 12 to 16 years were found to have been supplied to the alleged pedophile by Nepali accomplice Buddha Putawar aka Lucche.
“Preliminary investigations in the case showed that over 50 boys were supplied to pedophiles in Kathmandu by Putawar,” said DIG Nawaraj Silwal, who heads the CIB. And in each case, the major factors were found to be poverty, lack of awareness and inducements, he said.
Although tourism is a main economic source, Nepal has lagged behind in proper management of this industry and lacks stringent rules of conduct for visiting tourists, police investigators argued.
Until and unless hotels and resorts question the ‘suspicious’ activities of tourists, such criminal activities are sure to continue, police said.
Bharat Adhikari, a program manager at CWIN, said the growing tendency of voluntarism and social work by foreigners against the backdrop of a weak code of conduct has also contributed to offences related to pedophilia.
“Almost every month we get reports about pedophilia and other sexual assault but in lack of proper evidence, active support from victims themselves and an adequate legal framework, the suspects have gotten away,” Adhikari said.
Pedophile groups visit Nepal frequently in coordination with their Nepali aides but law enforcement remains helpless as most of the victims hesitate to be exposed because of security and prestige issues, the officials said adding that there should be special treatment for such vulnerable children.
SP Dibesh Lohani said, “Recently rescued children have stated that they were threatened, manhandled and rendered intoxicated.”
CIB seeks Interpol help
After the alleged US pedophile, who claims to be an apps designer by profession, refused cooperation in police investigations, CIB sought the help of INTERPOL to get his criminal history. “We are consulting INTERPOL to trace any involvement in similar cases in the US so that it could supplement the legal prosecution,” DIG Silwal said. He is suspected to have been involved in similar offences in the US and has been residing in Nepal, India and Bangladesh in recent years.