Legal Aid Lawyers conduct legal awareness session with local community.
Access to victim/survivor support is critical to serve citizens and protect their human rights. Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Promoting the Rule of Law Project (PRLP) recently provided a grant to Genuine People’s Servants (GPS), a local Myanmar CSO , to provide victim’s services to a young rape victim in Hlaing Thar Yar township. Thazin* is a 16-year old high school girl who was raped by a 23-year-old man. Fearful and depressed by this intimate abuse, she quit school and withdrew from the community.
Thazin’s parents helped her pursue criminal charges with the local township prosecution office. At the trial last August, six witnesses supported her case and a doctor provided medical evidence of the rape. Despite substantial evidence against him, the man received a sentence of only eighteen months in prison, which was reduced due to time he served in detention prior to trial. Thazin and her family felt the sentence was unfair based on the severity of the crime and the significant evidence which was presented at court.
In January of 2018, Thazin and her parents consulted with GPS to pursue a criminal revision to enhance the rape sentence. A GPS attorney filed a motion with the court and spent two months actively pursuing the case on behalf of Thazin. Thanks to the attorney’s efforts, the motion was granted and the perpetrator was re-sentenced to seven years in prison. Criminal revisions are not easy to achieve, but the legal aid lawyer provided sound legal reasoning and utilized effective trial skills to win the enhancement proceeding. In addition to supporting Thazin and her family, GPS proved its willingness and commitment to protect community members. This type of effort is the key to building trust between civil society and community members who are often skeptical of the motives and skill of legal aid lawyers.
GPS currently manages two grants awarded by PRLP to raise awareness and offer legal services, including one focused on trafficking in persons (TIP). GPS has opened three branch offices in Hlaing Tharyar Township–Yangon Region, Bilin Township–Mon State, and Salingyi Township–Sagaing Region. They train paralegals, provide legal aid services, and raise awareness of legal rights and TIP. GPS has provided legal advice in 180 cases, procedural assistance in 100 cases, and submitted 20 complaint letters to government institutions. They also have provided legal representation in 90 court cases.