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Cooperation Needed to End Violence Against Women of Burma

By Burma Partnership  •  November 25, 2013

VAW Day Logo from COMTo mark 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 27 civil society organizations have come together to launch 16 days of action that will end on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. The campaign began with a public ceremony in Rangoon on 24 November that included games, music and other performances. Women’s groups called for cooperation from all people of Burma to help end all forms of violence against women by participating in a “white campaign”, wearing white shirts or accessories during the 16 days to raise awareness about the problem of violence against women.

In a Burmese-language statement, the Women’s League of Burma called for the people of Burma to work together to reduce the role of the military in the governance of the country and achieve sustainable peace. The statement outlined the many different forms of violence that women face on a daily basis: physical, mental, sexual, domestic and community violence, as well as violence carried out by the Burma Army, especially in ethnic nationality areas.

Civil society groups have documented the harrowing extent of human rights violations and violence against women in areas of ongoing armed conflict. The Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand (KWAT) found that there have been 64 cases of rape committed by Burma Army troops since fighting resumed between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in June 2011. Such acts of sexual violence and rape against Kachin women continue even as peace talks are underway between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization, undermining the peace process. Additionally, the displacement of over 100,000 people due to the fighting in the last two years, lack of protection for internally displaced persons and shortages of humanitarian aid have become significant new push factor fuelling the trafficking of Kachin women to China, exacerbating an already long-standing problem. In the report “Pushed to the Brink,” KWAT documented 24 cases of actual or suspected trafficking since June 2011.

In conflict areas where the Palaung people live in southern Kachin State and northern Shan State, women have been raped, and young girls forced at gunpoint to guide and porter for Burma Army troops. Villagers have been killed by landmines while being forced to work as porters. The situation of Palaung women was further highlighted in a Burmese–language statement by the Ta’ang Women’s Organization.

For women and girls in ethnic nationality areas to live in safety, there must be an immediate cessation of armed conflict, withdrawal of troops and a drastic change in military policies. Women’s participation in the peace process is crucial to ensure that women and girls are protected. As outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, women play an important part in all aspects of conflict prevention, management and resolution, including organizing for peace, rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction.

All women and girls must have adequate means to justice for past violations and must be legally protected from future violence. As such, the 2008 Constitution and all relevant national legislation must be reviewed and amended in accordance with the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in order to provide the much-needed protection for the women and girls of Burma.

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