Tibetan girls raped by police

Two Tibetan girls were raped by five Chinese and Tibetan policemen after they were caught trying to escape across the border into Nepal. The girls, both in their late teens, were arrested in the Tibetan border town of Burang (Pulan in Chinese) late last year. One of the girls, a 19-year old from Lhasa, was beaten
with an electric baton and raped while she was unconscious, according to a witness from the group who is now in exile. A third member of the group may also have been raped, and was reportedly severely traumatised on the morning after the arrest.
Reports of the rape of women by police in Tibet are rare, although there have been unofficial accounts of the sexual torture of female and male prisoners by prison guards using electric batons.
The two Tibetan girls who were raped were travelling into exile with three other Tibetan women they had met during their journey. The 19-year old girl from Lhasa, whose name is being withheld by TIN to protect her identity, was travelling to India with the aim of studying at a Tibetan school in exile. The five young women
were staying for the night in a guesthouse in Burang, Ngari prefecture, a two-day walk from the north-western border of Nepal, when they were arrested by three Chinese and two Tibetan police officers after they could not produce sufficient proof of their identity. The policemen were all wearing Public Security Bureau uniform according to girls from the group who have arrived in exile.
All five girls were taken to an empty building and two of them were tied to a chair and gagged. These two Tibetan girls then witnessed the rape of two others, according to one of the girls who is now in exile. The fifth girl was taken upstairs and is also said to have been raped. The 19-year old girl from Lhasa, who is
now in exile, told TIN: “They beat me with an electric prod so that I couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t talk. They hit me below the stomach. It was only in the morning that I regained consciousness, and I was bleeding from the lower part of my body. My friend told me what they had done to me. All of the policemen had taken part in the rape.”
The girl’s friend, a 17-year old, said that the girl who had been taken upstairs had become mentally unbalanced the morning after their arrest. “We didn’t know what had happened to her, but it seemed that she was raped as well as the other two,” said the girl. “The next morning, she seemed to have lost her mental balance and she was tearing her hair out with her hands.”
The morning after their arrest, the girls asked the police if they could go to hospital. The police agreed to take the 19-year old, and one of her friends who had witnessed the assault was allowed to accompany her. They stayed in hospital for three days, and managed to escape on the fourth day, arriving in exile in December.
The 19-year old girl who was raped says that she is still suffering from traumatic flash-backs of the attack. “I have nightmares, when breathing seems difficult, and everything else seems like a dream,” she told TIN. It is likely that the three other girls, who were not taken to hospital, have now been transferred to a detention centre in Tibet.
There are few reports of such rapes by police in Tibet, although Nepalese police in border areas have been involved in the sexual assault of Tibetan women. In December 1996, a 22-year old Tibetan woman who was escaping from Tibet was raped twelve times by a group of Nepalese men led by a police officer.
In a separate incident in January this year, a 17-year old Tibetan girl from a Shigatse farming family was raped by a Nepalese driver who was taking her across the border. The girl, who was travelling into exile in order to study at Tibetan schools in India, said that she had been raped by the truck driver in Barabise
on the Nepalese side of the border, approximately 90 kilometres from Kathmandu.
The Tibetan girl, whose name is being withheld by TIN, said that she pleaded with the trader not to rape her because she wanted to become a nun. Celibacy is a prerequisite for joining a nunnery or monastery in Tibetan society, and rape can occasionally lead to social ostracism for laywomen.

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