The new penalty was approved by Union President U Win Myint on Monday. Activists, legislators and other people had asked for the death penalty for child rape since the government of U Thein Sein.
The amended law states in part, “whoever commits rape against a woman who is his wife and is not under 12 years of age, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years, or a fine, or both.”
It also states that whoever commits rape against a woman who is under 12 years of age shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term of 20 years.
“No need to feel sorry for those who rape children,” Daw Li Li Naing Kyaw, who was dissatisfied with the new penalties, said on Thursday.
She is also a leader of the For Women Voice Programme, which conducted a nationwide petition drive calling on the government and parliament to make child rape punishable by death.
She added that they want a separate law for child rape so that it will serve as a deterrent.
She was afraid that those who are imprisoned for child rape under the amended code, would be freed by amnesty or some other reason.
A female official of the Myanmar Food and Drug Administration was raped and murdered by a taxi driver in Yangon in January 2018.
Also, a 10-year-old girl was raped and murdered by two adults in Mogaung township, Kachin State, in February 2018.
According to the Myanmar Ministry of Home Affairs, there were 1100 rape cases in 2016, of which 671 were committed against children under 16. In 2017, there were 1405 rape cases, of which 897 were committed against children.
Lawyer U Maung Maung Soe said last year that courts used to sentence those convicted of rape to about 7 years in prison at most, despite the penal code allowing 20 years of imprisonment for the crime.