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Girl Students Sexually Harassed by Security Forces in Nepal

Sexual abuse, harassment and violence have become a way of life in Nepal's schools with security forces occupying their premises in the name of combating Maoist guerrillas, say child rights activists here. //

Children as Zone of Peace, an umbrella of 36 rights organisations, says it has been urging the new government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to withdraw security forces from all occupied schools but to no avail.

"Now there is a democratic government that says it is committed to peace and protecting human rights," says Kundan Aryal, president of the group. "Also, both the government and the Maoists called a ceasefire in April. But even two months after that, security forces still continue to run barracks on school premises."

A report compiled by the group says there are at least 11 schools where security forces are still running barracks. While most of them are in the outer districts, at least one, the Dhumrabarahi School, is in Sukedhara in the capital.

"There are growing incidents of girl students in Class 9 and above being subjected to sexual abuse by the soldiers," says Tarak Dhital, whose NGO, Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), is a member of the campaign.

"There are such reports from remote districts like Rukum, Salyan and Bajura, as well as Kathmandu. A recent incident involved a policeman posted in a barracks inside a school in Kathmandu marrying a minor student. It shows the spread of an unhealthy trend."

When the Maoist guerrillas started their People's War in February 1996 to abolish monarchy and turn Nepal into a communist republic, security forces began moving inside schools on the grounds they were the most secure places or were located in strategically important areas.

"If that is the case, we are asking the government to provide other locations so that the schools can shift there," says Aryal.

"We have written two letters to the new home and educ
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