Friday, August 18, 2017

Civil society looks to tackle child sex abuse

A national-level meeting aimed at better protecting children from sexual abuse will take place in Nay Pyi Taw later this week, as civil society groups call on parliamentarians to act in the face of increasing rape rates.

The NGO Child Rights Working Group (NCRWG), an umbrella organisation of 19 civil society bodies, has called for effective legislation and enforcement to be put into place.

“We have seen now many child rape cases in this country. There are some cases [where action is not taken] effectively and the culprits have walked free,” said U Aung Myo Min, director of Equality Myanmar, an NCRWG member.

“There is a need to promulgate strong laws to protect children effectively. We have invited 70 hluttaw representatives to listen to the voices of the children,” he said, explaining that some 130 young delegates from Myanmar’s 14 regions and states will be in attendance.

The meeting, from November 18 to 20, will see young people discuss the difficulties faced by children in Myanmar society when it comes to abuse and reporting assault.

“There is a need to educate children to know these dangers, such as the kind of places they shouldn’t go, which parts of their bodies they shouldn’t show to others and which parts of their bodies they should not accept being touched by others,” U Aung Myo Min said, adding that any such education ought to take into consideration the students’ ages.

It is important for parents to receive education too, said Save the Children’s head of program for child rights governance Daw Ni Ni Hla.

“Generally, offenders are not strangers but close or reliable friends and acquaintances. So there need to be many education programs – through the mass media that children watch the most,” she said.

Daw Ni Ni Hla said it was important that children learn about their bodies, their development and how to protect themselves. U Aung Myo Min suggested that learning about the human anatomy should be a compulsory part of school curricula.

“There are many child problems in our state,” said Ma Mo Bal, a child delegate from Kayah State. “For example, a lack of healthcare services and the fact that many students don’t have a chance to complete formal schooling. We want the elders – especially the government – to fix these problems.”

In the nine months through September of this year, 761 rape cases were reported – the highest in five years. Of these, underage victims represent a significant proportion.

Translation by Win Thaw Tar and Zar Zar Soe