RANGOON — Over the past six months, several alleged child rapists have avoided jail time by compensating victims in Tenasserim Division’s Dawei Township, according to women’s rights advocates.
Dawei saw four cases of rape involving underage victims from January to June this year, and since the families of the rape victims did not understand the legal process for filing charges, they could only take compensation and move on, Thida Moe, a member of Dawei Women’s Union who is helping the child rape victims, told The Irrawaddy.
“We have discovered six cases of child rape since January. Those cases were reported to the police, but they were never brought to court. The victims’ families are from rural villages and do not know that they should and can bring charges against the perpetrators,” she said.
In Dawei this month, a 60-year-old man allegedly sexually abused a 14-year old girl from a village in the countryside, according to the group. The case was not brought to court, but the suspected perpetrator gave the victim 1.4 million kyats (US$1,180) in compensation.
“When I found out about that case, the girl had already taken the compensation and so the issue is done. But the girl only received 900,000 kyats and the police kept the rest,” said Thida Moe.
The Dawei Women’s Union has criticized the township police force for its failure to handle properly the child sexual abuse cases.
“This would make men think that they can commit sexual abuse as long as they have money, which is really concerning for women and children. We are worried and feel unsafe. Therefore, the law must be enforced to make sure we are safe,” said Su Su Htwe, secretary of Dawei Women’s Union.
“As cases of rape and sexual abuse against young children are on the rise, harsh punishments are desperately needed,” lawyer Robert San Aung told The Irrawaddy. “The more cases of child sexual abuse there are, the more it will impact the stability of the country. It looks like we need capital punishment for these cases.”
In 2013, the previous parliament rejected a lawmaker’s proposal for the application of capital punishment in cases of child rape.