Momentum behind a movement to enact the death penalty for convicted rapists is mounting as protests continue to erupt across Myanmar and a petition for the punishment is collecting signatures by the thousands.
The movement is a response to rising rape statistics and a mainstream belief that women can avoid rape by dressing conservatively and staying home at night. Both the Ministry of Home Affairs, which collects rape statistics, and an op-ed in yesterday’s Global New Light of Myanmar issue instructed women not to bring rape upon themselves.
Activists argue that this mentality has failed to protect women.
The petition was started by the group 4 Women’s Voice. Lily Naing Kyaw, a leader of the group, says tens of thousands have been collected so far, and other women’s groups have been invited joined the initiative.
“I don’t want to see rapists. We struggle to collect 10,000 signatures in a month, but the number rape cases rises every day,” she told Eleven. “Women’s lives are not secure anymore.”
The activists behind the petition hope to collect 300,000 signatures before submitting it to the parliament. They are currently circulating throughout Yangon, collecting signatures at a portable booth and educating passersby about their demands.
Under Myanmar’s current law, convicted rapists can be sentenced to between 10 years and life in prison. However, the activists behind the campaign say they are often released before their terms are completed, whether by paying bribes or through amnesties or pardons.
Under these circumstances, one Yangon resident told Eleven, “he will not find it difficult to commit such a crime again.”
She added: “If there is death sentence, he knows he will die if he commits such a crime.”
According to the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, Myanmar has not legally executed anyone since the 1908s and has practically abolished the practice.