'Justice for Victoria': Toddler testifies in Myanmar 'nursery rape' case

media captionThere have been widespread protests calling for justice for "Victoria "

A three-year-old girl who it is alleged was raped at her nursery in Myanmar has given evidence via video link at a trial in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The case of the toddler, who by law cannot be named, has caused outrage in the country. Campaigners have given her the name "Victoria".

Police say the attack took place on 16 May. A school employee is under arrest and charged with raping her.

But DNA evidence has been inconclusive and nursery staff dispute it was him.

Police say a medical examination carried out after Victoria's mother had noticed her injuries and taken her to hospital showed the girl had been sexually assaulted.

A school driver called Aung Kyaw Myo, also known as Aung Gyi, was arrested in May in connection with the alleged rape. He was released for lack of evidence before being rearrested and charged.

He has yet to give evidence in court or enter a plea, the lawyer defending him told the BBC Burmese service.

Many believe he's been framed.

They point to CCTV footage obtained by BBC Burmese which shows him going into the nursery on the day of the alleged attack and apparently waiting in the reception area. It's claimed the video shows he had insufficient time to go and find Victoria and then attack her.

"It is impossible that he did it. We, all the teachers, were with the students all the time," Hnin Nu, one teacher questioned nine times by the police, told the BBC in July.

Another teacher, Nilar Aye, said Victoria had never left her sight on 16 May.

image copyrightSupplied
image captionCCTV footage obtained by BBC Burmese shows the suspect outside the nursery

There have been widespread protests calling for justice for Victoria and for wider action to arrest an alarming rise in reported sexual assault, particularly towards children.

Many Burmese are unhappy with the police handling of the case, and say the chief suspect has been made a scapegoat.

Government figures suggest the number of all reported rapes in Myanmar has increased by 50% in the past two years. In 2018, there were said to be 1,528 attacks - in nearly two-thirds of the cases the victim was a child.

Campaigners feel Victoria's story has exposed a deeply worrying trend in a country where domestic violence is still seen as a private matter.

The shame heaped upon survivors of sexual abuse means many remain silent, the BBC's Myanmar correspondent Nick Beake reported in July. Some victims are bribed, others intimidated so they take back their allegations.

A new child law is set to be introduced in Myanmar which would allow police to open investigations even if nobody presses charges, but there are serious doubts about the skills and suitability of the officers who will be doing such sensitive work, our correspondent says.

Myanmar (also called Burma) is still a predominantly rural country and in some communities village elders oversee complaints - alleged victims can even be encouraged to marry their attackers. Male rape is not even a recognised crime.

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