New legislation will redefine ‘child’ in Myanmar

Drafting of new legislation to replace the Juvenile Law will be completed in December and the bill sent to parliament next year, Social Welfare Department Deputy Director General Aung Tun said.

The new legislation will raise the age of a “minor” from under 16 to nder 18, he said, adding that this change will bring Myanmar’s legislation into harmony with international standards.

The new legislation is being drafted by the Attorney General’s Office as well as the Social Welfare Department, with technical assistance from UNICEF.

The drafting process began in 2010 with officials seeking input from international and national nongovernmental organizations working with children as well as government agencies.

Aung Tun said that those drafting the bill had found conflicts with existing laws.

The new legislation differs from the existing law passed by the State Law and Order Restoration Council 1993 in five key ways. Besides raising the age of minors, it has a minimum age for marriage and employment as well as a new age minimum for criminal charges and the establishment of juvenile courts.

Earlier this month the Lower House rejected a motion to debate a bill that would impose the death penalty on those convicted of raping a child and a life sentence for those convicted of attempting to rape someone less than 16 years of age.

Only 19 of 330 MPs voted to debate the so-called child bill submitted by MP Thein Nyunt. The bill would have amended legislation the MP described as too lenient on perpetrators of sexual crimes against children.

Child rape is equivalent to murder, U Thein Nyunt said. “Rape destroys children mentally and physically. It is a death sentence for them so those who inflict it should receive the same as a penalty,” he explained.

The MP pointed to Section 66 of the 1993 Act as an example of its lenience. The section imposes a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine of up to 1,000 kyats for manufacturing child pornography.

Deputy Attorney General Tun Tun Oo, however, said light sentences were not a cause of rape. He blamed a rising incidence of alcohol and drug abuse for an increase in the number of reported rapes.

According the Thamardi Foundation, a nongovernmental organization, there have been 880 reported cases of child rape in Myanmar since 2008. Colonel Tin Win, Yangon Region Security and Border Affairs Minister, said there were 88 cases of child rape in Yangon Region alone last year.

Source: Mizzima News Myanmar

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