Child Law Revised to Increase Punishment for Offenders

By San Yamin Aung 29 November 2016

RANGOON—Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister U Win Myat Aye said the ministry is revising the existing 1993 Child Law, which would up the punishment handed out in rape cases in which the victims are minors.

The minister’s response at an Upper House session on Monday came after a recent series of child rape cases prompted widespread public outrage and campaigns calling for the death penalty or harsher sentences against child sex abuse offenders.

U Win Myat Aye said rape cases are the most common crimes committed against minors following murder, adding that the police force was working in tandem with the ministry to reduce the number of offenses against children.

“The 1993 Child Law didn’t mention offenses or punishment regarding sexual abuse cases. In the recent revision, we added a set punishment for child rape cases of 10 to 20 years, along with a fine,” he told lawmakers.

He said the ministry sent the revision to the Union Attorney-General’s office to get recommendations and the office replied that they were also working to increase the penalties and would send back revisions with harsher punishments.

The minister added that the revisions would be submitted to Parliament soon.

Currently, child rape cases are charged under Article 376 of Burma’s Penal Code, which states that those convicted of rape “shall be punished with up to 20 years imprisonment or for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Lawyers and activists have pointed out that because the law does not mention a minimum sentence, many perpetrators of child rape cases have been handed short prison sentences.

“In one case in which a victim was locked up and raped, the rapist only received two years imprisonment in township court. After an appeal to the district court, the sentence was extended to five years,” said lawyer U Robert San Aung.

He said even if the punishment were increased in the revised Child Law, the maximum punishment would need to be put into practice in the courts.

U Robert San Aung also said the police’s delay to accept rape cases and the court’s process—which can take more than a year until sentencing—need to be changed to reduce the number of rape cases waiting to be heard.

From January to September 2016, the Burma police force recorded a total of 761 rape cases—of which 461 were committed against minors under the age of 16.