Antardristi: A safe house for children in Nepal
Hetauda | Nepal
Nepal Antardristi, established in Nepal in 2003, is one of a limited number of non-government and non-profit organizations working to prevent the sexual abuse of children in Nepal. The organization not only raises awareness, but it also relocates victims from unstable and harmful environments to a safe house, located 130 km outside of Kathmandu in Hetauda. At the safe house, the focus is on psychological recovery and social reintegration. The youngest survivor of sexual abuse from a family member the organization has cared for is just two years old.
Because Nepal is a country where close to a fourth of its population lives below the poverty level, people still fight for basic needs, and care for children has been neglected. From 2005 to 2015, cases of sexual violence against children tripled. However, reporting cases and dealing with these issues within the community is no simple task. Cultural taboos of talking about sex, a poor understanding of the long-term psychological effects of sexual abuse, as well as an imbalance of power in Nepal's male dominated and traditional society make reporting and discussing sexual assault difficult, sometimes dangerous. In many cases, the abused child is blamed by their family and community or the perpetrator threatens the child into isolation. Other cases are either settled within the family without the help of professionals, or if reported and brought to authorities within the statute of limitations, the perpetrator is not prosecuted.
Before 2013, the statute of limitations in Nepal to prosecute a child sex offender was only 3 months. But after prolonged pressure from the public and from organizations like Antardristi, the period to prosecute was extended to 6 months. However, this time period is still too short and causes numerous cases to go unreported and unprosecuted since abuse in children is typically discussed long after the incident occurs.
Because organizations in Nepal like Antardristi are non-government and non-profit, many are extremely financially limited. The lack and decline of these types organizations is worrying. In 2010, Antardristi managed three safe houses located across the country in Pokhara, Hetuada, and Kathmandu. One of these, located in Kathmandu, exclusively took in boys who were sexually abused. However, in a few short years, due to insufficient funding, two of the three safe houses were forced to close. Now, Antardristi’s safe house in Hetuada is the only one that remains.