“A Girl’s Life was Destroyed”: Sexual Violence Against Children Continues to Rise in Mon State and Mon Areas of Southern Burma

Summary

In March 2017, HURFOM’s Women and Child Rights Project (WCRP) released “Cracks in the Silence”, which documented the phenomenon of the increase in reported cases of sexual violence against children in Mon State and Mon-populated areas of southern Burma. In the year since this report was published, the number of reported cases has only continued to rise.  

Since WCRP’s last report on sexual violence against children was released in March 2017, we have documented an additional 14 cases of sexual violence against children in Mon State. In May 2018, Mawlamyine Police Station released statistics showing a 42% increase in the number of cases they received regarding sexual violence against children in Mon State. Mon State police received a total of 61 rape cases in 2017. Forty-four out of these 61 cases were of child rape.

This increase in reported rapes in Mon State is part of a Burma-wide trend. In February, the Ministry of Home Affairs released crime statistics for 2017, which showed that 1,405 rapes were reported across Burma in 2017, including 508 rapes of adult women and 897 rapes of children. In 2016, 1,100 sexual assault cases were recorded, 429 against adults and 671 against children. This represents a 27% increase in the total number of recorded rapes, and a 33% increase in recorded child rapes.

However, the true number is likely to be much higher, as traditional beliefs and the accompanying stigma surrounding sexual violence lead many to remain silent. This is further compounded by a lack of faith in formal legal systems, which is sustained in part by the challenges of navigating Burma’s overlapping jurisdictions and plural legal system in its politically complex and ethnically diverse states and regions. For many, these challenges to accessing justice create sufficient disincentives to report crimes of a sexual nature to police.

As a priority, the government must reform current legislation to combat this worrying trend. The Prevention and Protection of Violence against Women Bill has been stalled in the Pyithu Hluttaw since 2013. In addition, this briefing paper makes clear how weak enforcement of existing laws and lack of legal knowledge hinder families’ search for justice. This briefer also highlights the underlying problems of poverty and cultural issues which perpetuate the violence.

HURFOM calls on legislators to pass legislation combating sexual violence (particularly the Prevention and Protection of Violence against Women Bill). We call on the Burmese government to eliminate corruption and strengthen the enforcement of the law, and to fund community-based organizations (CBOs) who provide communities with sex and gender education, and who support families in accessing justice.

This briefer carries on the work WCRP started two years ago, documenting new cases that have emerged, continuing to document how families navigate the pluralistic legal system in Burma.

Download full report HERE.

Download the lighter version of report HERE.

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