The rape of a 12-year-old disabled girl in Burma's commercial capital has triggered calls for better laws to protect those with disabilities as part of reforms pushed by President Thein Sein.
The girl, who suffers from cerebral palsy which causes physical disability, was raped by a neighbor at her home in Rangoon’s South Dagon township on Christmas Day when her parents were away, news reports have said.
Her older sister witnessed the incident but was helpless. Police have arrested the suspect.
The Shwe Min Tha Foundation, which helps disabled people upgrade their skills and increase their livelihood opportunities, called for more effective measures to protect those with disabilities and stiffer laws to punish culprits who prey on people having either physical or mental impairments.
"She is a girl who cannot protect herself. I’m wondering if the punishment for those who commit such inhumane acts on these kids is the same as for those who commit such acts on normal people,” the foundation's head, Myat Thura Win, told a news conference in Rangoon.
He called for a debate on the issue, warning that disabled people in Burma were often being "bullied" and saying, "We need to do something to stop these bullies."
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, according to the Irrawaddy online journal.
She said they were targeted possibly because they were perceived as being more vulnerable.
Police and the judiciary have 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 that law enforcement is weak, the Irrawaddy reported.
“People should be aware that rape is an inhumane act. To rape a disabled person is unthinkable,” Nyunt Nyunt Thein said.
Myat Thura Win and Nyunt Nyunt Thein called for severe punishment for the culprit involved in the December rape of the disabled girl.
“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 granddaughters,” Nyunt Nyunt Thein said.
Myat Thura Win said the perpetrator should be severely punished in order to send a signal to would-be rapists and abusers.
Unlike in many other countries, there is no special law yet in Burma that offers support, care, and protection for those with disabilities, Myat Thura Win, a businessman who was afflicted with cerebral palsy in his childhood, was quoted by the Irrawaddy as saying.
He said the law is needed “because we physically impaired people face discrimination and abuses."
"Whenever we are in that situation, we are helpless.”
The absence of such a law has left Burma’s disabled without proper care and protection, said Aung Thein, a member of Burma’s Lawyers’ Network, adding that the rape case highlight the need for improving special care for the disabled.
“Now is the time to reconsider [having] a law for handicapped people,” he said, according to the Irrawaddy.
Reported by Zin Mar Win for RFA's Burmese service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.