Cases of sexual violence, particularly rape, against girls have increased dramatically since 2013, said an ethnic Mon rights groups highlighting such cases in southeastern Burma.
The Human Rights Foundation Monland (HURFOM) published a report on Thursday, titled “Cracks in the Silence.” In it, the organization documented and analyzed 20 cases of violence against children in Mon State and the surrounding areas between Dec. 2013 and Jan. 2017.
The types of violence ranged from rape to human trafficking; however, in the majority of cases, sexual violence was identified as the primary motive, the report said.
The perpetrators were often persons close to the victims and were frequently fellow community members or family members. In a small number of cases, the perpetrators were strangers or Burma Army soldiers.
The report also documented two cases of young girls killed after rape; one case highlighted had occurred in Tenasserim Division’s Yebyu Township in June 2014.
HURFOM said, there had been “a significant increase” in the number of cases of violence toward children reported between 2013 and 2016.
Mi Htaw Chan, the coordinator of Women and Child Rights Project of HURFOM, said the number of incidents is likely to be much higher than what is actually documented. The report, she added, aims “to provide a platform for community perspectives on issues” that the communities deemed important, like that of sexual violence against minors.
Reports of child abuse, especially cases of rape, can be brought before courts with the help of local civil society organizations in the region. However, social workers helping the victims say that only in very few of the cases is justice adequately delivered.
HURFOM said they also want parliamentarians to pay attention to these issues as they try to amend the existing 1993 child law and draft national policy on the prevention of violence against women.
Access to justice is still a challenge for victims, despite an increase in those speaking out about abuses they have suffered, Mi Htaw Chan added.
“We have to keep up our advocacy work toward the lawmakers and the decision-makers in the government as well as raise awareness within the communities,” she said. “Thanks to our partner civil society groups in the communities who provide the victims with legal counseling, consultation and support, victims raise their voices more.”
“The child rape cases are still happening because there is no harsh punishment against the rapists,” said Daw Tin Win, a volunteer helping vulnerable women and young children, from Ye Township, in southern Mon state.
She remembered one case in particular, in which a young girl reported that she had been gang raped but was later compensated with 500,000 kyats (US$366). Acts like this, she said, make it easier for perpetrators to commit, and get away with, such crimes.
“Rapists do not care about a prison sentence of two or three years. The punishment must be harsher—up to ten years, so that rape cases will be reduced,” she added.