Monday, January 16, 2006

The rape of a child

A little girl was roaming around the office and I asked my only other “malae” colleague who she was. She replied, “the young girl I told you about who was raped by her neighbour in Los Palos”. I was so shocked to see her because she is a mere 6 years old and her neighbour a 10-year-old boy actually vaginally raped her with his erect penis! As a result, she has an infection, which is being treated at the Dili National Hospital while she lives at our women’s shelter. None of her family have accompanied her (reasons unknown) but they refuse to initiate charges against the 10 year old boy, probably because as they all live in a small village, the children and their families will have to go on living together (in Australia, one of the families would in all likelihood move house; here that is simply next to impossible). Moreover, I’m sure that they will “resolve” it with traditional justice and the perpetrator’s family will probably give the victim’s family a buffalo or two in compensation for “taking” their little girl’s virginity which of course, now makes her less marketable for marriage. But just imagine being this little girl; you’re raped by your neighbour and then forced to return living next to him for the remainder of your childhood. My heart bleeds for her.

The little girl only speaks Fataluku, the local language of Lautem district, which has made communicating with her difficult for my colleagues only speak Tetum and various other local languages but not this particular one. However, because she is a child, she can learn a new language much quicker than we adults can; my colleagues have been teaching her Tetum so that they can communicate. She appears to be learning quickly.

I told Daniel about the little girl and wondered whether it would be appropriate to give her a small stuffed Australian toy, ten of which we had brought with us from Australia. Our intention was to give them to children we got to know but as there are so many children even in our little neighbourhood, we would need many more than ten to be able to fulfil this desire. So I chose a cute little koala and put it in my bag to give to the little girl the next time she came into the office.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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