Feature: Foreign pedophiles in Nepal exploit illiteracy, lower economic status to carry out heinous crimes

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-15 20:44:52|Editor: Song Lifang
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By Shristi Kafle

KATHMANDU, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Based on special information a team from the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) under the auspices of the Nepal Police raided a hotel in the capital city's tourist hub of Thamel in the first week of September.

Upon entering the room, they found a foreigner drinking beer while a 15-year-old boy was found sleeping naked on the bed. The team immediately arrested the foreigner for being engaged in pedophilia and rescued the teenager, who hailed from a rural village in the Dhading district.

The pedophile was identified as 45-year-old Austrian citizen Markus Kendler, who was found guilty of molesting at least two other Nepali minors by luring them with food, clothes, gifts and entertainment.

This is not the first case of pedophilia to hit the Himalayan country as many foreigners have been arrested in recent years for sexually abusing and molesting under-aged children.

"Firstly, since we are a touristic nation, we highly value guests and treat them as gods and trust them easily. Secondly, illiteracy and poverty are the major reasons behind the growing number of pedophilia cases," DIG Pushkar Karki, director at CIB, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The majority of the people in rural areas lack awareness about such activities so that they easily get lured by foreign citizens looking to engage in illicit activities with underage children," DIG Karki said.

In addition, many of the families lack the basic knowledge about the possible abuse of their children owing to illiteracy. On the other hand, since their economic status is remarkably low, they can be easily influenced or manipulated by strangers.

Though some cases have been reported, pedophilia is still an underestimated phenomenon in this South Asian nation, where 25.2 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line.

"Pedophiles cannot be exposed until the victims speak out or report the crime, so it's necessary to raise awareness and protect the children. The CIB has been keeping a serious eye on this issue," DIG Karki said.

Earlier in June, the CIB arrested a 63-year-old German national, Albert Fred Kilncke, on a charge of pedophilia, with the offense taking place at a hotel in the Thamel area where a 14-year-old boy was rescued.

Similarly, in September last year, a 48-year-old U.S. citizen, Kenneth Joseph Coombs, was arrested, while at least five boys aged between 12 and 16 years old were rescued. Having been charged as a pedophile, he is currently serving a 9-year prison sentence in Nepal.

The CIB said that most of the culprits have similar records in other countries as well, mostly in Asia. To investigate their criminal histories, the investigative body often utilizes the support of Interpol.

Most of these foreign criminals were found following the same steps on their sexual exploits of children. They tend to visit child rehabilitation centers or rural villages and spend a few days creating good bonds and lure the children with small amounts of money, food or clothing, the CIB said.

Then, the children are brought to the capital city and taken to hotels, especially in places like Thamel, and are forced to perform illegal sexual acts and other activities.

Superintendent of Police, Mira Chaudhary, who is in charge of such cases, told Xinhua "The first pedophile case I was involved in was probably 15 years back and the cases have been increasing since then. Most of the cases are similar, with children being victimized after being easily lured, so it's necessary to have effective sex education in schools."

According to Chaudhary, there are many cases of pedophilia which also involve Nepali perpetuators too, but they haven't been exposed yet. Most of the victims are aged under 16.

The Nepal Police maintains that there has been an escalation of cases reported in the recent years.

Nepal Police spokesperson, DIG Manoj Neupane, however, stated that it's hard to get the exact statistics on pedophiles over the last few years, as most of the cases are later reclassified as attempted rape, sexual crimes and human trafficking, among others.

Nepali law has a provision of a maximum 13 years imprisonment to those found guilty of pedophilia, with the offense coming under the category of rape.

Child NGO Federation-Nepal, an umbrella organization of NGOs working in the child sector in Nepal, said that it has been holding regular interactions and awareness programs with over 200 member organizations focusing on possible sexual abuse against children.

Manoj Kandel, General Secretary of the federation, told Xinhua "Pedophile cases are mostly prevalent within child rehabilitation centers, to be specific, among street children. To combat such crimes, we should strictly monitor the entry and activities of foreign volunteers in the child centers."

He went on to explain that the federation has instructed all the organizations working in the fields of child development and children's rights to go through the bio-data and brief history of such volunteers.

In the latest move to discourage possible abuse against children, the federation has prohibited keeping foreigners on as residential volunteers.

The pedophilia phenomenon remains a hard to detect crime, but it is slowly expanding its malignant roots, so children's rights activists are of the view that now is the time to expedite joint efforts and operations to combat such crimes against children.