Burma’s Social Welfare Department is issuing hotline phone numbers in response to a slew of reports of sex crimes against minors. It is urging victims and witnesses to come forward and report offences.
Sexual violence towards children has become a focus of much media attention in recent months, triggering widespread public reaction. Activists and civic leaders have called for the death penalty for child rapists. According to Burmese police data, 761 cases of rape had been reported this year until October, 380 of which involved minors.
The Social Welfare Department said any members of the public who are aware or have suspicions of child sex abuse should report the details to officials in Naypyidaw (tel. 067-494 999/ 067-404 222).
Dr Win Myat Aye, the minister for social welfare, said a revised Children’s Law – to replace the existing 1993 act – will stipulate a maximum sentence of life in prison for perpetrators of rape against minors. He said a draft law will be presented soon to parliament.
Human rights lawyer Robert San Aung slammed the national judiciary for incompetence in dealing with sex crimes.
“The responsibility lies with the police, the legal departments and the courts,” he said. “These three departments must coordinate better on these types of cases. There have been examples of legal advisors giving rudimentary recommendations to the courts, making it hard for judges to pass correct sentences.”
He added: “These legal officials should be given guidance.”
He suggest the apparent rise in child rape cases could be due to a lack of general knowledge and education among the public, and may be exacerbated by an increase in drug abuse and financial hardships.
On 25 November, activists marking the International Day against Violence on Women staged rallies in several towns and cities across Burma, calling for effective legal action against child molesters and rapists.
On 27 November, a high-profile rally including Burmese celebrities was held at Kandawgyi Lake in Rangoon.
On that same day, a 40-year-old Mandalay man was detained by police for allegedly attempting to rape two children – a seven-year-old boy and his sister, aged four – in a low-income neighbourhood in Chan Aye Tharzan Township.
And yesterday, a senior Buddhist novice, apparently deemed unfit to be ordained into the monkhood due to mental illness, was arrested for raping an eight-year-old boy at a monastery in Pauktaw, Arakan State, while also accused of sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl. Local police told DVB that a lynch mob of some 300 angry residents had to be dispersed after they gathered at the police station, demanding the man be handed over to face vigilante justice.