YANGON — Activists are calling for harsher penalties for sex offenders amid a significant increase in the number of reported rapes of women and children across the country.
Stop Sexual Violence, a group of activists lobbying for severe punishment as a deterrent against rape, held a press conference in Yangon on Tuesday to introduce a T-shirt campaign to raise public awareness about sexual violence.
The campaign, the group’s second since 2016, calls for increasing penalties for sex offenders, imposing punishments besides prison, and denying sex offenders pardon or amnesty.
“We want lengthy prison sentences imposed on sex offenders, child rapists and those who rape and murder, for example, 70 or 80 years in prison without amnesty,” Ko Zeyar Tun, a member of the campaign group, told The Irrawaddy.
The group also plans to present its demands to Parliament, he said.
Ko Zeyar Tun cited dozens of cases in which sex offenders were released from prison after serving less than 10 years thanks to amnesties and good behavior credits despite receiving sentences of 20 years to life.
The campaign has been joined by the artist Smile.
“I have joined this group as an artist and as a mother,” she said. “We expect to see some changes if we push together.”
She and other celebrities, lawyers, lawmakers and politicians will attend the launch of the campaign, to be held Sunday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Kandawgyi Hmaw Sin Kyun.
“We oppose any form of sexual violence. Anyone can join us to show their opposition to it. We hope that this event will make the government take some action to stop sexual violence,” said Ko Aung Chantha, another member of the campaign group.
The Home Affairs Ministry recorded 305 more rape cases in 2017 than the year before, 226 of them against children under 16 years old. Most child rape cases were reported in Yangon, Irrawaddy, Mandalay, Bago and Sagaing regions.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.