Upper House to discuss bill imposing 20-year jail sentence or life imprisonment for child rape

Soe Min Htike

A member of parliament has submitted a bill amending the Penal Code of Myanmar for the second time with a new provision carrying a 20-year jail sentence or life imprisonment for raping a girl under 12 or a disabled woman, and it will be discussed in Upper House.

MP Aung Thein from Bago Region Constituency (12) submitted the bill to a parliamentary session of Upper House held in Nay Pyi Taw on August 10.

"Section 376 of the current law prescribes that for the rape of a woman of any age, 10 or 20 years of prison sentence plus fine can be imposed. But, the punishment is not enough and effective for raping girls under 20 or disabled women,' said the MP.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, there were 671 rapes of girls under 16 in 2016 and the number increased to 897 in 2017. Meanwhile, the number of rapes of girls above the age of 16 was 429 in 2016 and 508 in 2017. A total of rapes cases across Myanmar were 1,100 in 2016 and 1,405 in 2017.

Most child rapes occurred in Yangon, Ayeyawady, Mandalay, Bago and Sagaing regions, said Aung Thein.

He said the punishment for rape in Section 376 of the Penal Code, enacted over 150 years ago in the colonial era, was imposed based on situation and lifestyles at that time. Increasing child rapes of today surrounded many things such as current lifestyle, culture, increasing population, environment, lack of knowledge, poverty and insecure life. Therefore, the bill had been submitted to amend the law, the MP commented.

"There are a lot of rape cases in Myanmar. They usually result from drug abuse and cheap alcoholic drinks. Most cases happened in the uneducated community. The majority of people are demanding death penalty. But as far as I am concerned, the punishment for raping a girl under 16 or a disabled woman should be 20 years in prison or life imprisonment. If a victim died during rape or for other causes, there will be another Section 302 (c) for murder. If a rapist is charged with murder, we could lose evidence of rape. I am submitting this bill to wait and see if the law can effectively prevent such cases," MP Aung Thein told the Daily Eleven.