In Person

Dr San San Aye: ‘We Want a Law to Prevent Gender-based Violence’

By Thu Zar 4 November 2016

Deputy director-general of the social welfare department talked to The Irrawaddy reporter Thuzar about the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement’s plans to help victims of gender violence and hold perpetrators accountable.

There is currently no dedicated legislation to punish sexual assaults on women and girls. What is the ministry doing to address this problem?

At present, we are trying to establish a law that can effectively prevent gender-based violence. The government, the parliament, and women’s organizations are all helping.

We can’t stand by and watch those cases happening while we are waiting for such a law, however. As social welfare department members we have basic legal knowledge and want to ensure offenders are given tough penalties. In the case of sexual abuse of a young girl we will sue the offender for rape charges and under the Child Law. If possible, we also sue the offender for trafficking, as we did with the Ava tailor shop case.

While a new law is pending, we try as far as possible to punish offenders under the existing laws.

The Ava tailor shop case was widely reported, which prompted authorities to take action. What about unreported cases?

I agree that the tailor shop case is just the tip of the iceberg and there are many abuse cases that go unreported. Our ministry has implemented a 100-day plan and, based on the results, we aim to improve our services. We are trying to expand our organizational structure. We have established helplines for round-the-clock assistance regarding social welfare problems (067-404666 and 067-404777).

We are also discussing assigning a staff member in each township to establish a comprehensive social welfare system.

What about domestic violence?

Most cases of domestic violence go unreported and it is difficult for us to handle this issue. We are planning a 16-day campaign to raise awareness of gender violence and launch a one-stop service for women at the Women’s Vocational Training School on Natmauk Street in Rangoon.

Normally when women or girls file complaints of sexual assault they have to report the incident three times—to the police, to the social welfare department, and to doctors who perform medical checks.

No victim wants to talk about a painful experience three or four times. Therefore, we have organized a one-stop service where social welfare department personnel, police, health staff, and lawyers will all be present 24-hours a day. Eventually, we hope to expand this service throughout the country.

What sort of requests is the helpline currently receiving?

We receive reports of abuse from women and under-age girls as well as requests for help from elderly or disabled persons.