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Sexual Violence Against Women under the Political Instability

June 17th, 2023  •  Author:   Burmese Women’s Union  •  4 minute read
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Situations of sexual violence during the attempted military coup

Myanmar has been under the military rule for over 70 years and the military government has systematically committed sexual violence against women. Women have experienced the worst sexual violence where ongoing conflict occurs, especially in ethnic areas.

The Women’s League of Burma has consistently documented sexual violence against women in conflict zones and the system of impunity that exists in Myanmar and has released several reports on these issues. The latest report, published in January 2014, described militaryperpetrated sexual violence in ethnic communities as the “Same Impunity, Same Patterns” and included 104 cases1 of sexual violence against women and girls from the 2010 elections to January 2014.

Since the attempted military coup in 2021 until now in 2023, sexual violence continues to be committed as a method of interrogation and a weapon of war in conflict zones.

Women of all ages and from various backgrounds were among the street protesters who came out against the attempted military coup and the junta. Besides joining the protest, many women from various social backgrounds and ages have participated in this struggle in multiple ways; female civil servants joined the Civil Disobedience Movement, young women joined the strikes, housewives participated in pot-banging and joined the strike from home, they have provided food and drinks to the young peaceful protesters, and many women have helped in hiding young activists and protesters during the crackdown.

The military junta brutally shot and killed many of those who opposed them. Others have been arrested and tortured. There have also been cases of sexual violence during interrogations of all genders.

The terrorist army intentionally uses the above methods to weaken women’s political participation. Such sexual violence is dominated by patriarchal practices, which are a part of Myanmar’s culture, and because of the lack of rules of law and legal regulations it is difficult for women survivors to speak out about their experiences regarding sexual violence.

According to the information from credible news media sources collected by the Burmese Women’s Union, among the sexual harassment and abuses during interrogations, there was a woman whom the members of the terrorist army sexually abused in front of her father during the interrogation. In addition, members of the terrorist army inappropriately touched the breast of Ma Win Win Ko and attempted to raped her during the interrogation.

According to Ko Ye Mon, a Frontier Myanmar journalist who was arrested at Yangon International Airport in December 2021, he was raped in the interrogation center by the terrorist army soldiers, and these terrorist soldiers committed sexual violence against people regardless of their gender.3 The fact that these terrorist soldiers dared to commit sexual violence against this well-known national journalist, is a very worrisome indication of the condition of the women who were arrested and interrogated by the terrorist army.

As the attempted coup d’état continues, armed rebellions against the terrorist army continued to gradually expand, and the repression and torture by the terrorist army became more and more brutal. In order to control the people through fear, the terrorist army burned villages, torturing and killing those captured and using local people as human shields. The cruelest act of military junta was that the bodies of captured and killed women showed signs of sexual abuse.

Therefore, BWU has observed that the terrorist army has used rape as a weapon of war for many years during their offensive attacks in ethnic areas, and now, they intentionally and systematically continue to use this tactic during the current attempted coup.

Political instability and conflict affecting the entire country have exacerbated the situation of sexual violence against women. Not only have military soldiers under the military junta committed sexual harassment and violence but other armed groups have too. The sexual violence committed by civilians against civilians is also a challenge to achieving justice in this situation of political instability and dysfunctional government mechanisms.

In the current situation, victims of sexual violence have not only lost their way to get justice for the sexual violence that they have experienced, but they have also gradually lost a safe and peaceful community.

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