The alarming rise of sexual assault in the country has led to calls for the death penalty to be imposed on the perpetrators of these crimes, but there are some who think they should be made to suffer for life.
Ko Thar Nge, a father of a young boy and girl, said that rapists should not be allowed to live.
“Rapists should be put to death. In my opinion, rapists should not be allowed to live outside with other people,” said Ko Thar Nge, who is from South Okkalapa township.
On the other hand, Smile who is a mother of two girls and also a famous actor said: “I don’t like the death sentence to be imposed on rapists. I want them to endure the serious punishment for their crimes throughout their lives.”
In 2017, there were 1405 rape cases across Myanmar; 508 victims were adults and 897 were children. The figure is much higher than the 1100 rape cases recorded the year before, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Like parents, some local organisations were also undecided about what punishment should be imposed on sexual offenders. Some want death, while others want sentences as long as 90 years without the possibility of parole or amnesty.
Daw Yee Yee Tha, information officer of the Stop Sexual Violence group, told The Myanmar Times that perpetrators should be punished accordingly.
“Rapists should be punished for committing rape. If he kills the victim, he should be punished for committing murder also,” she said.
Daw Yee Yee Tha said that for killing his victim, he should be sentenced with the maximum penalty of death.
“That is why we do not add capital punishment in our demands,” she said. “Our group demands for specific, effective, strong and long-term prison sentences. The rapist must not be granted amnesty in anyway. This is not capital punishment.”
Though there is a death penalty under existing law, this has not been imposed in the country for the past 30 years.
U Kyee Myint , a lawyer and chairman of the Union Lawyers and Paralegal Association, said it is not good to impose the death sentence easily as everyone has human rights, but conceded there are some cases in which this penalty should be imposed.
“Even though everyone can make mistakes, the kind of case in which the victim is killed is something that the perpetrator should not be allowed to live with,” he said.
“The death penalty in the law has to be used. But it is not okay to give the death penalty in every child rape case. Those convicted should be sentenced depending on the circumstances of the crime,”
U Kyee Myint said it should be up to the judge whether to impose it or not, depending on his appreciation of the evidence presented in court.
According to Article 376 of the Penal Code, punishment for rape ranges from 10 years’ imprisonment to a life sentence, plus a fine. The maximum sentence for child rape is 20 years, and there have been several attempts to introduce the death sentence on the crime.
But U Kyee Myint lamented the lax law enforcement against repeat offenders, including rapists. Some of these offenders were given short prison sentences, while others can even get a government exemption to avoid going to prison.
They also said that there are more rape victims among children in poor families than in rich families.
On Wednesday, about 15 representatives of non-governmental organisations, human rights groups, and women’s groups met with the Children’s Rights Committee at the Amyotha Hluttaw (Upper House) to discuss the rising number of rape cases, especially child rape.
Some pointed out that among the reasons for the rise in child rape are poverty, and lack of education, sex awareness, and law enforcement.
They said that there are more rape victims among children in poor families than in rich families.
Statistics show that in 2017, there were 226 more child rape cases than in the previous year.
The discussion also focused on how to impose effective punishment, such as long prison sentences, said U Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar.
He said they underscored the need to increase sex education among the public, especially among children as well as on the need for closer cooperation between the government and the non-governmental groups and child rights advocates to curb sex crimes.
“There are still many things that government will have to do …to stop sexual violence,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said this week there will soon be a Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women bill which provides stiff punishment aimed at stopping sex crimes.
MP Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe, secretary of the Women and Children’s Rights Committee in the Amyotha Hluttaw, said: “The number of rape cases will not decline by using increased penalties only.”
She said that although there is heavy punishment under the law, rape cases are increasing because these punishments have not been imposed.