Equality and participation of women in all decision-making levels must be ensured and guaranteed by the NUG, National Unity Consultative Council, and other institutional levels, while it is imperative to support gender-responsive transitional justice. Justice and accountability for women must be pursued by taking steps to end the Myanmar military’s use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and to end its impunity.
As the world celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March 2023, women in Myanmar also joined in the celebration of the unwavering bravery of the women who are part of this Spring Revolution to fight against the militarism and for their rights and justice. Women have been oppressed and subordinated as second-class citizens in Myanmar; yet, they have courageously demonstrated their amazing strength and defiance in the face of oppression throughout history and proved the importance of their role in building a just federal democratic society. It is essential that going forward, women’s political participation and inclusion at all decision-making levels is guaranteed, while all efforts are made to ensure justice and accountability for the gender-based violations and crimes committed by the Myanmar military.
Crowds of women from Sallingyi, Monywa, Kalay, Taze, Chaung-U, and Yinmabin Townships in Sagaing Region went on protest on IWD as a powerful symbol of sisterhood, disobedience, and resistance, holding signs with such slogans as “eradicate rapist army”, and “end the dictatorship”. Many other women organizations reaffirmed their commitment, releasing statements to mark the IWD including Sisters 2 Sisters, Women’s Peace Network, Women Alliance Burma, Karenni National Women’s Organization, and Karen’s Women Organization. In addition, a solidarity march by the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) and other civil society organizations marked IWD, calling for an end to violence and discrimination against women. Moreover, WLB, together with the Salween Institute for Public Policy, hosted the #Manel_Exhibition, the purpose of which was to raise awareness on the prevalence of all male panels.
Sexual violence has been used by the Myanmar military as a weapon of war with total impunity for several decades to shatter a society and to humiliate, degrade and demoralize, particularly against Rohingya women and women in ethnic minority areas. Such kinds of violence and assault are even more salient in the wake of the failed coup of 1 February 2021. According to information gathered by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), as of 10 March 2023, a total of 4,116 women have been arrested while according to a statement released by Ministry of Women, Youth, and Children Affairs under the National Unity Government (NUG), a total of 483 women have been killed since the beginning of the failed coup. Women political prisoners are also exposed to the risk of torture and sexual violence inside prison. Over 70 female political prisoners held in Mandalay’s Obo prison were assaulted, tortured, and deprived of nourishment. They are also detained in solitary confinement and prohibited from family visits and food deliveries. The existence of such prison torture was disclosed in a letter that was written and secretly sent from the prison. Such gruesome and atrocious torture not only occurs behind bars but also occurs outside such as cases of abduction, in which women are subjected to a series of rape, torture and killing. One example of these fallen courageous women was May Zun Moe, a 28-year-old CDM nurse who was viciously killed. She was tortured, gang-raped, shot to death, and her body burned. This kind of rape and killing of women was deliberately made public as a method to instill fear.
While Rohingya and other ethnic minority women have sorely required rehabilitation and protection measures due to the decades-long repression and persecution, justice and accountability continue to be lacking. However, women reject simply hiding and keeping quiet; instead, they speak out and fight for justice. One such well-known woman is Shanti Mohila, a peace worker in the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, who formally requested an investigation for genocide and persecution of Rohingya women and girls in Myanmar from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Similarly, despite pervasive insults and violence, women have demonstrated remarkable examples of heroism, activism, and sacrifice in the Spring Revolution. Women are not only fighting against the military junta but also deconstructing gender norms that have been upheld by the male-dominated authoritarian military regimes everywhere. Women have taken on more active leadership positions in political affairs, pushing back against male chauvinistic norms and practices through structural violence and discrimination against them. In the Spring Revolution they have participated in every aspect of building up a new federal democratic Myanmar. They are an integral part of the revolution, including in the Civil Disobedience Movement, policy making bodies, the armed resistance movement, humanitarian and service provision work, serving in governance bodies, and working in CSOs for the promotion and protection of human rights, contributing to every aspect of building a new federal democratic Myanmar. Moreover, proud and supportive mothers are behind every young person who is fighting against the illegal military junta.
Women’s participation in decision-making is vital to supporting gender-responsive transitional justice. Thinzar Shunlei Yi, one of the founders of Sisters 2 Sisters, noted that “no matter how mature our political understanding may be, it is still difficult for younger women to gain positions of political power and decision-making.” Women have shown their ability and are outspoken, either addressing the violence against women or discussing how a future of Myanmar without women is still a form of discrimination and a characteristic of chauvinism. Equality and participation of women in all decision-making levels must be ensured and guaranteed by the NUG, National Unity Consultative Council, and other institutional levels, while it is imperative to support gender-responsive transitional justice. Justice and accountability for women must be pursued by taking steps to end the Myanmar military’s use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and to end its impunity. The perpetrators – the Myanmar military – must be punished and held accountable under international law to bring justice for victims and survivors of these crimes of the past and present and ensure there is no recurrence of such crimes in the future.
 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.
Statement on the Severe Violence against the Female Political prisoners in Mandalay Central Prison(Obo)
By Anti-Junta Forces Coordination Committee – Mandalay
Violence against women and girls: EU sanctions nine individuals and three entities under its Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime
By The European Council
EU releases €1 million in emergency aid for people affected by fire in Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh
By The European Union
NEW REPORT: Global Freedom Declines for 17th Consecutive Year, but May Be Approaching a Turning Point
By Freedom House
Minister Sajjan announces $157.6 million in funding as he concludes visits to Bangladesh, the Philippines and Qatar
By Government of Canada
ASEAN Regional Forum inviting terrorist Myanmar junta to workshop on countering the financing of terrorism by non-profit organisations
By Justice For Myanmar
Fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps – When will it end?
By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia
The Myanmar Women Parliamentarians Network Statement on International Women’s Day
By Myanmar Women Parliamentarians Network
ITEM 2 – Interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Myanmar
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)
Statement on the recent massacre of 17 people in Tatai Village perpetrated by Myanmar Military
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
Myanmar: High Commissioner details severe violations amid shocking violence
By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights Council Hears that the People of Myanmar Continue to Suffer Profound Human Rights Harms and that Serious and Systematic Human Rights Violations and Abuses in Nicaragua are Crimes against Humanity
By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Solidarity Statement from Sisters 2 Sisters on International Women’s Day
By Sisters 2 Sisters
Additional Humanitarian Assistance for the Burma and Bangladesh Regional Crisis
By United States Department of State
Statement on International Women’s Day
By Women’s Peace Network
The Border Consortium Strategy 2023 – 2025
By The Border Consortium
The Civil War in Myanmar 2023 Conflict Diagnostic
By Carleton University
Freedom in the World 2023 – Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy
By Freedom House
Atrocity Alert No. 337: Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua and South Sudan
By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Individuals repeatedly beaten by police and military in Yangon and Mandalay
By Myanmar Witness
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Thomas H. Andrews (A/HRC/52/66) (Advance Unedited Version)
By United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
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.”