RANGOON—A rape of a disabled 12-year-old girl in Rangoon’s South Dagon townships on Christmas Day has outraged local aid organizations and on Tuesday they called for a severe punishment for the perpetrator. The groups also used the occasion to highlight the need for a disability rights law in Burma that would support and better protect the country’s disabled.
The young girl, who suffers from cerebral palsy, which causes physical disability, was at home while her parents were away when her 28-year-old neighbor entered the house and abused her.
The girl’s older sister was at home and witnessed the crime, but was unable to stop it. Police arrested the suspect on the same day and have held him in custody since, aid groups said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Shwe Min Tha Foundation President Myat Thura Win, whose Rangoon-based organization supports the disabled, said the perpetrator in the case should be severely punished in order to send a signal to would-be rapists and abusers.
“We urge the authorities concerned to take the case seriously and we request a serious penalty for the guilty to serve as an ‘example’,” he said, adding that the victim is a member of his foundation.
“I’m wondering if the punishment for those who commit such inhumane acts should be the same penalty as for those that are committed on normal people,” he added.
Nyunt Nyunt Thein, the head of Rangoon’s Marry Chapman School for the Deaf, said some of her female students had been the victims of rape, adding that they were perhaps being targeted because they were perceived as being more vulnerable.
Police and judiciary had often not done enough to help these victims or seek proper punishment of the perpetrators, she said, adding that there is “rampant corruption” among police and the courts and law-enforcement is weak.
“People should be aware that rape is an inhumane act. To rape a disabled person is unthinkable,” Nyunt Nyunt Thein said, adding that severe punishment should follow in the recent rape case.
“I urge the government to take a right stand this time and take serious action in this case, not only for the victim but for all our daughters and grand-daughters,” she said.
Myat Thura Win also called for laws that would better protect and support the disabled in Burma, where—unlike in many other countries—there is no special law yet that offers support, care and protection for those with disabilities.
He said the law was needed “because we physically impaired people face discrimination and abuses. Whenever we are in that situation, we are helpless.”
Aung Thein, a member from Burma’s Lawyers’ Network, said the absence of such a law was leaving Burma’s disabled without proper care and protection, adding that the rape case highlighted the need for improving special care for the disabled.
“Now is the time to reconsider to have a law for handicapped people,” he said.