Sexual abuse of North Korean women common: Report

  • North Korean government barely acknowledges the existence of rape in the country.
  • "The climate of sexual abuse is so pervasive that it has been normalized."

New York: The Human Rights Watch claimed in a new report recently that North Korean officials commit sexual abuse against women with near total impunity.

The extensive 98-page report is based on interviews of a total of 106 North Koreans, comprising 72 women, four girls, and 30 men, who have fled from North Korea, reports CNN.

The report reveals an oppressive world where officials, from police officers and prison guards to market supervisors, face virtually no consequences for their routine abuse of women.

"Unwanted sexual contact and violence that is so common in North Korea it has come to be accepted as part of ordinary life," the report alleges.

Sexual violence in the country is "an open, unaddressed, and widely tolerated secret," said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director.

"North Korean woman would probably say 'Me Too' if they thought there was any way to obtain justice, but their voices are silenced in Kim Jong-Un's dictatorship."

Of all the sexual assault survivors interviewed for the report, only one said she had tried to report it. None of the others reported because "they did not trust the police and did not believe police would be willing to take action."

In the report, a former trader who fled North Korea in 2014 was quoted as saying that market guards and police officials would "consider us (sex) toys. We were at the mercy of men."

She said that the climate of sexual abuse was so pervasive that it had been normalized – both by the perpetrators and their victims.

Medical professionals who fled the repressive country said that "there were no protocols for medical treatment and examination of victims of sexual violence to provide therapeutic care or secure medical evidence," the report reveals.

A former police officer from North Korea, herself a victim of sexual abuse, told CNN that 90 per cent of the women she knew had been sexually assaulted.

While Pyongyang has laws criminalising rape, trafficking, and having sexual relations with subordinates, the report noted that the North Korean government barely acknowledges the existence of rape in the country.

Last July, the North Korean government told the UN's Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that only nine people in all of North Korea were convicted of rape in 2008, seven in 2011, and five in 2015.

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