“UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls”
As we mark the launch of the Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, women and girls in Myanmar are sounding a loud alarm over their heightened vulnerability, stressing that the weight of gender-based violence, combined with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing conflict, are eroding their sense of hope and resilience.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a gross violation of human rights and its roots are entrenched in social norms in all countries. Globally, an estimated one in every three women experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime, and one in every four adolescent girls aged 15–19 years, has been abused by an intimate partner or husband. At its worst, gender-based violence can result in death, like in situations where a woman or girl is murdered by family members for bringing dishonour upon the family name or prestige (honour killing). Survivors of gender-based violence suffer short and long-term consequences to their physical and mental health.
The root causes of gender-based violence are embedded in gender-inequality and an unequal power balance between women and men.
The Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey (2015-2016) reported that 17 percent of ever married women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced some forms of intimate partner violence in their lifetime, of which 37 percent are survivors of physical injuries. Among women who have ever experienced sexual violence, 7 out of 10 have never sought help nor told anyone. However, evidence show that gender-based violence is often under-reported and intensifies during times of crisis when resources are limited, especially against women and girls.
The ongoing political, socioeconomic and protection crisis in Myanmar is fuelling the risk of gender-based violence and increasing humanitarian needs. In this very difficult situation, all women and girls are entitled to unconditional protection and enjoyment of their rights without any form of discrimination.
Through the United Nations’ work in other crisis situations, we know that women, children, and persons with disabilities, are particularly vulnerable as they are exposed to significant risks of violence. Working with civil society organisations, the United Nations in Myanmar is promoting the collection of sex, age and disability disaggregated data to ensure holistic and responsive interventions are delivered on time. Currently, over 1.3 million people, including those with disabilities, have been displaced, the majority of which are women and children. Factors such as high exposure to gender-based violence, poverty, displacement, restrictions on movement, and limited access to healthcare, including sexual and reproductive services, are rendering women and girls increasingly vulnerable to many other risks.
The United Nations continues to prioritise delivering principled humanitarian assistance to all affected communities, including internally-displaced people, migrants, the LGBTIQA+ community, women and girls with disability, people living with HIV and AIDS and those affected by COVID-19.
The culture of silence among survivors of violence must be broken in Myanmar to ensure that survivors report cases to local authorities, have access to gender-friendly justice, healthcare, social protection and Mental Health and Psychosocial services.
We call on all humanitarian actors to listen to survivors, and to ensure that essential services, including Women and Girls’ Centers and Safe Houses and specialized services such as case management, receive adequate funds to continue and scale up.
This can only be achieved in close partnership with women’s civil society organizations, community-based organizations, national and international NGOs and donors in Myanmar and donors. Collaborating with, and sustaining funding for women’s organizations and civil society organisations (CSOs), who are at the forefront of responding, and delivering life-saving gender-based violence services at grassroots level, is critical. Many of the Organisations that provide first line of life-saving GBV services are local CSOs. Unfortunately the recently announced Organisation Registration Law will not only negatively impact on their ability to provide such services but may even threaten their very existence.
In Myanmar, the United Nations remains firmly committed to promoting building community-based prevention systems through intensified awareness-raising and social behaviour change programmes, engaging men and boys, community leaders and other local actors.
Together, we re-affirm our strong commitment to stay and deliver life-saving services that address the urgent needs of women and girls. On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we call on all stakeholders and agents of change to break the silence to end violence against women and girls, and ensure that all survivors can have access to life-saving services.
Let’s All UNITE and ACT to End Violence against Women and Girls Now!