Yangon, July 4: Seven nurseries in Myanmar's capital remained closed Thursday as police charged a suspect for allegedly raping a two-year-old, a case that has horrified a country where experts say assaults on children are widespread. The father of the girl spoke to local media about the investigation last week. He described how his daughter had returned home from her nursery in Naypyidaw in May with injuries that doctors told him were the result of rape.
The government this week temporarily closed the school and several others in the capital. "Fifteen private schools were shut on Monday but eight have re-opened," the Department of Social Welfare's Tin Zaw Moe told AFP. A judge announced Thursday that a suspect has been arrested and charged with rape. Twinkle Sharma Murder Case: Police Rule Out Rape Angle, Say 'Personal Enmity' Behind Horrific Killing of Two-And-a-Half-Year-Old Girl in Aligarh.
But an online campaign fueled by rumours over the assault has gained traction for weeks. Outraged netizens changed their Facebook profile photos to call for "Justice for Victoria", a pseudonym given to the girl. The drive spread to newspaper front pages and even the president's office, which shared the trending icon on Facebook, saying it had been deluged by demands for action.
A string of celebrities have also added their voices to a movement that is now jumping offline. Hundreds have signed up to take part in a protest march this Saturday in Yangon to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Child welfare experts at NGO Terre des Hommes (Lausanne) told AFP cases of child rape are "very common" in low-income townships in Myanmar even if most go unreported.
The stigma and reticence to undertake a lengthy judicial process mean many families prefer to remain silent. The NGO said it hears of one to two cases every week in just one impoverished Yangon township of 800,000 people. A new child law is due to be signed soon that would allow police to open cases even if nobody presses charges.