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Unseen and Unheard: Violations of the Human Rights of Women Deprived of Liberty in Myanmar

July 1st, 2024  •  Author:   International Commission of Jurists  •  3 minute read
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Through the compelling testimonies of over a dozen female ex-prisoners and their lawyers, ICJ’s new briefing paper highlights women detainees’ conditions and their intense psychological and physical torment in interrogation and detention settings.

The briefing paper, Unseen and Unheard: Violations of the Human Rights of Women Deprived of Liberty in Myanmar, documents how the military authorities have subjected women deprived of liberty to a multitude of egregious human rights violations, including certain acts of gender-based violence amounting to crimes under international law.

“After arbitrarily arresting and detaining women and girls for their legitimate political activism, the Myanmar military forces have subjected them to abject acts of gender-based violence amounting to grave human rights violations and to crimes under international law. These crimes include acts of torture and other ill-treatment inflicted on women deprived of liberty intentionally, to cause them severe pain and suffering, and as a tool for crushing dissent,” said Melissa Upreti, ICJ Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific.

Between the military coup d’état in Myanmar on 1 February 2021 and 20 June 2024, at least 3,987 women were still in detention for political reasons, including 1,528 women who had been convicted on spurious charges, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma.

The grave human rights violations to which women deprived of liberty have been subjected include:

  • Physical beatings and threats of the same, sexual violence and intrusive strip and body searches;
  • Excessive use of force, and the use of overly punitive disciplinary methods and sanctions, such as prolonged solitary confinement;
  • Inhumane detention conditions, resulting from severe overcrowding and entailing lack of privacy and inadequate access to sanitary facilities; and
  • Denial of adequate healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare, such as pre- and post-natal care and menstrual products.

Access to justice and effective remedies for these gross human rights violations against women deprived of liberty is virtually non-existent, despite attempts by lawyers to present cases alleging torture and other ill-treatment in interrogation and detention settings.

In light of its findings, the ICJ concludes by urging the military junta to immediately cease the systematic violations of human rights of women deprived of liberty in the country and calls on the relevant UN agencies, independent human rights experts and UN Member States to strengthen documentation and accountability efforts, especially in relation to the grave human rights violations perpetrated against women in detention who remain largely unseen and unheard.

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