Nepal Children's Organization (NCO/Bal Mandir) -- child trafficking, corruption and sexual abuse
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Nepal Children's Organization (NCO/Bal Mandir)
Nepal's newspapers generally refrain from writing articles critical of NCO/Bal Mandir (an organization with powerful friends).
A recent article in the Nepali Times is a notable exception -- looking at alleged child trafficking, corruption and sexual abuse at Nepal Children's Organization:
Child predators: Even compared to recent scandals in children’s homes, allegations of abuse at Bal Mandir are shocking
4-10 July 2014
When Sarah Robinson first came to Nepal with her son and niece in 2009, she took time out from sightseeing to visit Bal Mandir in Naxal.
At the squalid state-run orphanage, Sarah’s niece happened to pick up a five-year-old blind girl. Sarah, a special-needs teacher back in the UK, decided to adopt the child.
Two years later, Sarah was back in Kathmandu to begin the lengthy and difficult adoption process. Whenever she visited Bal Mandir, the girl’s caretakers would warn her saying the child had “bad karma”, but Sarah was determined to adopt the girl, whom she now called Hope.
One day Hope’s caretaker told Sarah she had spotted blood in the child’s underwear. Both assumed it was diarrhoea. But after examination, doctors at the TU Teaching Hospital said Hope had been raped. When they questioned her, Hope told them she and “Rabin uncle” loved each other.
Rabin Shrestha was in charge of adoptions when Sarah applied for papers for Hope. “I tried to adopt her, but Shrestha told me I couldn’t do that. He wanted me to sponsor her instead and told me I would get a decision after she turned 16,” Sarah told Nepali Times.
It had already crossed the 35-day statute of limitation on rape when Sarah finally filed a case against Shrestha (she was afraid he could deny her Hope if she accused him) so she only filed an FIR with police on grounds of sexual abuse.
Shrestha was issued a warning in 2012, but not arrested.
On 16 June, Rabin Shrestha, now an ex-employee since a year and a half, and Rabin Chalise, an ex-student who ran a youth club at the shelter, were arrested by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) again after child rights activists presented new evidence of repeated rape and abuse of other girls and boys at the orphanage.
According to the testimony of three autistic girls, the men would introduce themselves to the children as Bollywood film stars Amitabh and Abhisek Bachchan and would lure them into drinking alcohol and watching pornography before abusing them, the latest incident occured three days before their arrest.
They would organise ‘wedding ceremonies’ every Saturday and dress the girls in red saris and have them dance to brass-band wedding music. One of them would spray water on the girls, who would then be forced to take off their wet clothes. This occurred during the afternoons, when Shrestha got a free pass at the orphanage. In the evenings, Shrestha used to take the children to a bar in Thamel where they were groomed to be prostitutes, according to children’s accounts.
These detailed testimonies were presented to the CIB by child rights activists from ACR-Int (Action for Child Rights International).
The evidence was cross-checked for veracity, and was so compelling that Shrestha and Chalise were arrested right away, while a third man was questioned but couldn’t be detained because of lack of evidence.
Lawyer Sapana Pradhan Malla, who is fighting Sarah’s case, says this new evidence might help them get the Supreme Court to order the police to register and file a rape case against Shrestha. They have also listed five other pleas: amendment to the 35-day limit, a mandamus order to not dismiss the case, to teach children about sexual abuse, to set up a child-abuse monitoring system at Bal Mandir and for the Central Children’s Welfare Board to come up with a manual for regulation.
A hearing scheduled for 3 July at the SC was again postponed to 3 December.
Shrestha and Chalise, both right now in police custody, have denied the allegations against them. We asked Subash Kumar Pokharel, General Secretary of Bal Mandir, how an ex-employee could go in and out of Bal Mandir, but he was evasive.
Instead, he accused ACR-International of using Bal Mandir’s children against the institution that protected them. Some Bal Mandir alumni also protested outside the office of ACR-I in Kuleswor on Wednesday accusing activists of using the case for fund-raising.
“Since the police are investigating this case, I don’t want to say anything and influence their decisions. But we have written to them that we will fully cooperate with the investigation,” Pokharel told us.
The CIB refused to comment because it said investigations were ongoing. It has until 10 July to file a case, after which Shrestha and Chalise will have to be released.
Names of Sarah and Hope have been changed for safety and privacy reasons.
Sacred to profane
Established in 1964 to take care of orphans and abandoned children, Bal Mandir was a powerful institution with royal patronage. With Queen Ratna at the helm, it put together buildings and 50 ropanis of property which are now prime real estate.
Administered by the quasi-NGO, Nepal Children’s Organisation (NCO), Bal Mandirs across the country today take care of over 600 children in 11 homes. Since the loss of its royal backing, the NCO has been plagued by political interference and corruption. Its buildings and property have been leased out to private individuals, amidst allegations of huge kickbacks to political appointees in the NCO.
In 2011, the Public Accounts Committee of the legislature parliament ordered the NCO to systematise its lease process. Seeing the conditions at Bal Mandir, the Australian charity Mitrataa Foundation agreed to manage the orphanages for five years in 2009, but pulled out within 12 months because of widespread corruption and mismanagement at the NCO.
‘We had to cancel the project as we were not confident that we would be able to deliver on the objectives without risking Mitrataa’s reputation as an organisation that refuses to pay bribes,’ the charity says in an online post.
One former Bal Mandir employee says the shelter has been involved in “selling babies” in the guise of adoptions, with its managers taking a cut.
When allegations of child trafficking made international headlines, the government suspended inter-country adoptions in 2007 before lifting the self-imposed ban in 2009. In February 2010, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, released a report saying Nepal’s adoption system had gross irregularities and fell short of Hague Convention standards.
Among other recommendations, the report advised better regulations of children’s homes and elimination of ‘financial gain from inter-country adoption’. Eleven countries including the US and UK then banned adoptions from Nepal.
The NCO’s Subash Kumar Pokharel denies all allegations of corruption and abuse. He says: “There is no other orphanage in Nepal better run than Bal Mandir. If any one finds proof of corruption or abuse, I will resign.”
Child predators detained, Sunir Pandey and Trishna Rana:
(Un)happy homes, Sunir Pandey:
Selling sympathy, Bhrikuti Rai:
At the mercy of mercenaries, Trishna Rana:
Nepali Times -- Child predators: Even compared to recent scandals in children’s homes, allegations of abuse at Bal Mandir are shocking
Now Nepal Children's Organization is not "state-run" -- it is a private NGO:
"NCO is an autonomous, non-governmental, non-profit making, non-political, and self-governing organization...."
NCO/Bal Mandir has long been regarded as the leading child trafficking organization in Nepal. Rita Singh Baidya (NCO's chairman) is the sister of the Deputy Prime Minister -- which may explain why the trafficking allegations have never been properly investigated.
Nepal -- Victims of Balmandir (Pound Pup Legacy):
"The institution in which Her Majesty Queen Mother Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah is the sponsor ("preserver") and Rita Singh Baidya, the daughter of late Ganeshman Singh, is the President has involved itself in selling children and taking commission. It is known that in the process of selling children and taking commission present office secretary Rajeshwor Niraula, President Rita Singh Baidya, employee Ram Krishna Subedi, some police personnel and some child trafficking agents are involved."
Paper Orphans documentary posted on the web (PEAR Nepal):
The Terre des hommes/Image Ark documentary on adoption trafficking in Humla (reputed NCO/Bal Mandir kidnappings). Some Humli children ended up in India -- others in the inter-country adoption trade.
Children for sale (Al Jazeera):
The documentary opens with a Bal Mandir case.
In 2006, the French Foreign Service formally blacklisted NCO/Bal Mandir:
En raison d’une succession de dossiers d’adoption problématiques, et après divers témoignages négatifs de familles adoptantes, il est formellement déconseillé aux familles candidates à une adoption au Népal d’effectuer des démarches auprès des orphelinats « Swastik » et « Nepal Children’s Organization », également dénommé « Bal Mandir ».
Les témoignages recueillis par l’Ambassade de France à Kathmandou font en effet état de sollicitations financières inacceptables, de grande opacité et de lenteurs inexpliquées dans le déroulement des procédures d’adoption menées auprès de ces orphelinats.
Compte tenu du contexte actuel des adoptions au Népal, les familles candidates à une adoption dans ce pays sont invitées à observer la plus grande vigilance dans la conduite de leur procédure.
For more on Rita Singh Baidya and the child trafficking allegations at NCO, see PEAR Nepal:
Nepal Children's Organization -- former head of NCO/Bal Mandir adoptions arrested for child rape
And for more on the recent NCO rape scandal, see Pound Pup Legacy:
Nepal — Rabin Shrestha (alleged child rapist) & Action for Child Rights International
The two alleged rapists have now been charged:
Republica -- Bal Mandir minors 'sexually exploited repeatedly'
Involvement of accused yet to be verified
KATHMANDU, July 9: On the basis of medical examinations, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police on Wednesday submitted its investigation report to Kathmandu District Attorney with testimonies that three minor girls, students at Bal Mandir, were sexually exploited repeatedly.
"After a three-week intensified investigation, we have submitted our report with all the testimonies and handed the two accused over to the charge of attorneys for further legal action," SSP Uttam Karki, Acting Chief of CIB, said. "The minors were sexually abused to the full over and over again,” a police source said citing the investigation report.
Police had arrested the two individuals previously associated with Bal Mandir, also known as Nepal Children´s Organization (NCO), one of the country´s oldest orphanages, and they were remanded to police custody for investigations into rape charges made against them by three minor girls, who are now at a different orphanage.
It has also come to light that the three girls were medically examined on October 10, 2013 at Patan Hospital. The hospital report also stated that the girls had been sexually abused since one year back.
“I knew that a medical examination was carried out by the then NCO Board, which has now collapsed, but I am sure such alleged abuse never took place within the compound of the Bal Mandir,” Subash Pokharel, general secretary of NCO, said.
There were many minor students that leave the Bal Mandir in the morning for studies and return in the afternoon, General Secretary Pokharel said adding that there were chances of their being abused while they are outside but not while inside the compound.
CIB had arrested a former NCO student and a former NCO employee -identified as Rabin Chalise and Rabin Shrestha - after the three minor girls living at the Naxal Bal Mandir complained of being sexually exploited. CIB, in coordination with the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), had shifted the three girls, who are below 15 years of age, from the Bal Mandir after an NGO, Action for Child Rights International (ACRI), drew the attention of police to the matter.
During the police investigation, the minor girls said they would be lured with sweets and had been facing exploitation for a long time, according to police. Though the sexual exploition has been proved medically, the involvement of the accused is yet to be verified medically, a police source said.
Chalishe, the chairman of a club of former NCO students, and Shrestha, a former employee, had easy access to the Bal Mandir orphanages but they have been denying any involvement in abuse.
If the accused are proved guilty, they should be duly punished and long-term arrangements made for the education and future safety of the victimized girls, said Salina Tamang, country director of ACRI.
Students of Bal Mandir last week protested against the public exposure of the ´sexual abuse´ charges while CIB investigations were still under way. Police personnel involved in the investigations said Bal Mandir staff were indifferent to the investigations and ignored the complaints of the victims.
Published on 2014-07-10 03:30:40
On July 16th, both were denied bail.
The rescheduled bail hearing regarding the Bal Mandir case took place yesterday at the Kathmandu District Court. We are really happy to announce that the hearing resulted in the denial of bail for both men accused. The judge listened to the evidence presented by the lawyers of both parties. Based on the documents submitted by the Central Investigation Bureau’s investigation and the arguments of the lawyers supporting the 3 victims, the court ruled that bail would not be granted for the accused.
All of us here at ACRI/Nepal and ACR-Int are relieved with the ruling, and confident that this confirmation of the evidence presented will result in justice for the young girls. ACRI/Nepal will continue to support the victims as the trial continues and work in close collaboration with the other organizations offering support in this case.