YANGON — After four years of waiting, Myanmar’s first legislation tackling violence against women will be submitted to Parliament during the parliamentary session that reconvened on Tuesday.
The Prevention and Protection of Violence against Women Bill has been in development since 2013, drafted by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and women’s rights groups amid calls for an urgent need to cover women and girls with separate legal protection.
In just one recent example of brutality against women, a husband killed his wife and three daughters in Irrawaddy Division’s Bogale Township. He had asked his wife for money in order to buy alcohol, the request escalating into an argument and the attacks. He was later arrested and confessed to the murders.
Upper House Lawmaker Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe, who is also a secretary of the parliamentary Women and Children’s Rights Committee, cited the quadruple murder as an instance of the increasing violence against women.
Offenders are not deterred from committing violence against women—even murder, she said, adding that the rule of law is essential in preventing such cases.
The final version of the bill has been finished, according to women’s right activists who helped draft the legislation. They told The Irrawaddy the draft bill would be submitted during the current parliamentary session.
The bill will better protect women from all forms of violence, including domestic violence, marital rape, sexual violence, harassment and assault in the workplace and public place, they said.
Hla Hla Yee, co-founder and director of Legal Clinic Myanmar, which provides mostly women and children with free legal aid, said when the bill is enacted, survivors of violence will receive more effective legal and healthcare support.
The draft bill carries a life sentence for rape of girls under the age of 18 and disabled women. Those found guilty of marital rape face two to five years in jail. The bill also includes harsher punishments for hurting girls and women.
The Women and Children’s Rights Committee secretary Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe said the committee has been working on the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013-2022) in addition to the new law.
Working committees to implement the action plan were formed soon after lawmakers returned from presenting the government’s report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to the United Nations last year.