International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women a Day of Shame for Myanmar

November 28th, 2018  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  6 minute read
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On 25 November, the world marked International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In Myanmar[1], however, violence against women perpetrated by state actors, especially in ethnic and religious minority communities, is systemic, as documented by ethnic women’s organizations for decades.

One of the components of the recent violence against the Rohingya community that forced over 700,000 people across the border to Bangladesh, where they are currently facing an uncertain future, was the widespread use of rape and sexual violence. As documented by the Kaladan Press Network in the report ‘Rape by Command,’ the use of sexual violence was systematic, authorized by commanding officers, and began before the main violent crackdown that started on 25 August, 2017. The report stated, “Sexual violence involved hundreds of soldiers and occurred across the length of Maungdaw and northern Buthidaung. Such scale and breadth of incidence provides strong evidence that rape was systematically planned and used as a weapon against the Rohingya population.” The report includes testimonies of how some women were locked up in military camps and repeatedly raped during the operation. It also documents how rape would often take place in front of civilians and other soldiers, inflicting terror on local populations but also demonstrating the impunity with which this was done. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, speaking on the crackdown and violence stated “The widespread threat and use of sexual violence was integral to this strategy, serving to humiliate, terrorise and collectively punish the Rohingya community, as a calculated tool to force them to flee their homelands and prevent their return.” The UN Special Envoy on Sexual Violence, Pramila Patten concurred, that the use of sexual violence against the Rohingya “is a calculated tool of terror aimed at the extermination and removal of the Rohingya as a group.”

Ethnic Karen, Kachin, Shan, and other minorities in other parts of Myanmar can, and have, testified to this type of violence, that has been perpetrated systematically by the Myanmar military for decades. These ethnic civil society organizations have all documented the use of sexual violence by the Myanmar military as a weapon of war against their communities; for example, the high-profile case of the two ethnic Kachin schoolteachers, raped and brutally murdered by the Myanmar military soldiers in Shan State in 2015. In July this year, six female medics working for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) were captured and murdered by the Myanmar military. Women also get caught in the crossfire as the Myanmar military exacerbates ethnic divisions between the Shan and the Ta’ang armed groups, as a 60 year old Kachin woman was shot dead during fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State and the TNLA and Shan State Progressive Party.

In all these cases, justice for the victims and survivors of the violence remains elusive. It is clear that as impunity continues to flourish, the Myanmar military will persist in using sexual violence to inflict terror unless accountability and justice for past and ongoing violence is addressed. Myanmar is bound by its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 1325 and related resolutions on women, peace and security. UNSC 1325 urges all states to develop and adopt a national action plan and take measures to ensure that women and girls are protected from gender-based and sexual violence and “to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes including those relating to sexual and other violence against women and girls.” The actions of both the military and the Government demonstrate clearly that Myanmar does not comply with this vital resolution that it is obliged to implement for the sake of peace and security.

Therefore, the decades of sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated against women, particularly from ethnic minority communities as well as all other forms of crimes against humanity and war crimes, will not end until the international community takes a decisive stance. The international communities must take urgent action to hold the main perpetrators of violence – the Myanmar military – to account through an international criminal accountability mechanism, preferably through the International Criminal Court. As Naw Htoo Htoo, Programme Director for the Karen Human Rights Group expressed in a statement commemorating International Day for the Elimination of  Violence against Women, “For decades, female survivors of sexual violence have suffered in silence. We owe them justice and protection. The time has come to put an end to the reign of impunity and to create the necessary conditions for women to live a life free of sexual violence.”

[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

အျပည္ျပည္ဆိုင္ရာအမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ားအေပၚ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈဆန္႔က်င္ေရးေန႔ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္

By Burmese Women’s Union

Northern Burma Delegation Calls for Action to Hold Perpetrators of Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Accountable and Allow Aid to Displaced People

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Human Rights Watch

New Report Debunks “Terrorist Attack” Pretext for Burma Army Operations Against Rohingya

By Kaladan Press Network

အျပည္ျပည္ဆုိင္ရာ အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ားအေပၚ ခြဲျခားဆက္ဆံမႈမ်ားအားလံုး ပေပ်ာက္ေရးေန႔

By Karen Human Rights Group

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women November 25th, 2018

By Karen Human Rights Group

ကရင္အမ်ိဳးသမီးအစည္းအရံုး “အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ားအေပၚ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈရပ္တန္႔ေရးအတြက္ ၁၆ ရက္တာ လႈပ္ရွားမႈ” သဝဏ္လႊာ

By Karen Women’s Organization

Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) Formal Message for “16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women”

By Karen Women’s Organization

Legal Analysis on the Rights of the Children In Connection with the Repatriation of Rohingyas into Rakhine State, Burma/Myanmar

By Legal Aid Network

The Shan Women’s Action Network Addresses Gaps in Women’s Peace and Security for the 16-Days of Activism Campaign

By Shan Women’s Action Network

Statement of UNHCR on the Need to Create Conditions in Myanmar That Are Conducive to Refugee Returns

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Legal and Media Reviews on the Conviction to Seven Years of Imprisonment of Two Myanmar Journalists, Thet Oo Maung (aka) Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo (aka) Moe Aung, Under the Official Secrets Act

By Union Lawyers’ & Paralegals’ Association, Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network, Myanmar Journalist Network, Myanmar Journalist Network (Ayarwaddy), Myae Latt Journalist Network, Southern Myanmar Journalist Network, Lashio Reporters Group, Taunggyi Journalist Association

Joint Statement of the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) and its Sister Organizations on the Vacant, Fallow & Virgin Land Management Law

By United Nationalities Alliance

စည္းလံုးညီညြတ္ေသာတိုင္းရင္းသားလူမ်ိဳးမ်ားမဟာမိတ္ႏွင့္ မိတ္ဖက္အဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ား၏ေျမလြတ္၊ ေျမလပ္ႏွင့္ ေျမ႐ိုင္းမ်ား စီမံခန္႔ခြဲမႈဥပေဒႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္သည့္ ပူးတြဲ သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By United Nationalities Alliance

ႏိုင္ငံတကာ အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ားအေပၚ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈပေပ်ာက္ေရးေန႔ အထိမ္းအမွတ္ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္ – “အမ်ိဳးသမီးမ်ားအေပၚ အၾကမ္းဖက္မႈပေပ်ာက္ေရး ဥပေဒျဖင့္ကာကြယ္ေပး”

By Women’s League of Burma



The Killing Fields of Alethankyaw

By Kaladan Press Network

“It’s Happening to Our Men as Well”: Sexual Violence Against Rohingya Men and Boys

By Women’s Refugee Commission

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.