A child rights activist in Mon State has raised concerns that the family of a sexual assault victim is being intimidated to drop charges.
In mid-July, a three-year-old old girl was allegedly sexually abused by a 70-year-old man in Moulmein, the Mon State capital, with medical records showing that the girl’s vagina was internally damaged.
The alleged perpetrator is a neighbor of the victim.
The victim’s family filed a complaint to the local court on July 16, but the court released the accused on bail at a hearing two weeks later. Supporters of the victim’s family said the latter were being threatened with defamation by the accused for pursuing the case.
No charges have yet been laid, with the court still determining whether to accept a rape charge against the accused.
“At the 17th witness hearing on Dec. 22, the court still didn’t decide on what charges the accused sexual abuser would be prosecuted under,” said Khin Than Htwe, the chair of a community child rights awareness group, Mon State Women and Children Upgrade Conduct Team, who is supporting the victim’s family.
Cases of rape can be brought under Article 376 of Burma’s antiquated Penal Code which stipulates punishment of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Khin Than Htwe said she also shared information about the case with Mon State parliamentarians on Thursday, as there were reports the presiding judge may be moved to another town. The next witness hearing is due on January 5, 2016.
“There are some cases in Mon State that were not continued when the judge of the respective court moved to another town,” said Khin Than Htwe, who has over one year’s experience working to promote child rights awareness.
“Therefore, we must take on the case seriously as the girl was under 4 years old when it happened… and she is still in pain five months later.”
The community worker said every month her group provided support for around 40 cases related to sexual abuse, rape and violence against women across four Mon State townships: Moulmein, Kyaikmaraw, Chaungzon and Mudon.
Around half are sexual abuse and rape cases related to young girls, often involving neighbors or family members, Khin Than Htwe said.