25th November 2020
In light of the international day for the elimination of violence against women, we want to draw attention to the sexual violence that ethnic women in Myanmar – and especially Rohingya women – have endured and continue to endure at the hands of the Myanmar military. Burmese military forces have engaged in widespread sexual violence against these ethnic minorities for decades and continue to do so with impunity. Most often it concerns the most brutal incidents of rape imaginable: gang-rapes, rape paired with severe beating or resulting in death, and rape of girls as young as 8 years old. Rohingya women were subjected to rape in especially large numbers during the 2017 genocidal campaign which killed more than 10,000 Rohingya people and forced over 800,000 of them to flee to Bangladesh. In all these cases, rape is used to degrade, subjugate and terrorize women and their ethnic communities. Rape becomes an instrument of war.
Up until today, these women have not received the justice and reparations they deserve. The current Myanmar justice system is not equipped to do so. Burmese domestic courts often lack independence and have a record of not giving proportionate sentences for crimes committed by the military. Rather than receiving justice, survivors of sexual violence are often turned into the perpetrator. They are excluded from their communities and fined, intimidated, detained, tortured, or even killed by the military.
These abhorrent crimes at the hands of the Myanmar military should not be forgotten. There should come an end to the impunity of Myanmar military forces committing these crimes. Given the failure of the Myanmar justice system, it is imperative that the international community take action to right this wrong. These horrendous international crimes deserve our attention and need to be prosecuted. Only then we can ensure that justice is served to those ethnic Burmese women enduring brutal and relentless sexual violence. In addition to that, we call for effective supports and assistances on health, education and livelihood of the survivors of sexual violence.