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Salt in the Wound : Justice Outcomes and SGBV cases in the Karen refugee camps, 2011- 13

By Karen Women Organisation  •  November 25, 2015

A new report, based on extensive research in 7 refugee camps on the Thai Burma border, shows that perpetrators of sexual and physical violence against women in the refugee camps are facing a situation of virtual impunity.

Julia Marip, Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) commented on the report results, “I was really shocked to see that the culture of impunity that prevails in Burma, also seems to be the case in the refugee camps. I had assumed that with international actors like UNHCR and IRC/LAC being present there that the situation would be considerably better.”

The report, which is launched on the 25 th November to coincide with the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, is a result of research that analysed 289 cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in the 7 camps which took place between 2011 and 2013. The report found that in 6 of the 7 camps, the justice system provided inadequate justice outcomes for 80% of the cases.

“The camps have been in existence for more than 25 years, we have complex systems for managing our communities. It is simply not good enough that justice, especially for women, has been so neglected”, said Naw K’nyaw Paw, Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization.

The report found that there were a number of reasons for the lack of proper justice, including a lack of a set of clear and comprehensive camp rules and penalties, and procedures, and a lack of resources and support for implementers of camp justice and camp security. The inadequate Justice Outcomes presented in the report do not help heal the wounds caused by violence, but rather are like salt in the wound, and prolong the pain experienced by the victim.

“We know that the justice system in the camps is weak. We hope that this report can be used to address the underlying problems with it, so that we can work towards having a more just community, both here and for the time of return in Burma. Improving justice in the camps must be seen as a key component in preparing refugees for return,” said Naw Blooming Night Zan, Joint Secretary of the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC).

The 289 cases included in the study were the more serious cases of sexual or physical violence that were reported to KWO in the 3 years. The report found that in about 70% of the total cases, the perpetrator was a husband abusing his wife. There will be a 16 Day Campaign for Elimination of Violence Against Women organized in every camp this year from November 25the to December 10the. The campaign in the camps will focus on raising awareness and developing actions to stop violence in the home and to improving access to justice for women who are victims of violence.

“We really need men’s participation to make this happen. We know that most men do not use violence against their wives, it is only a few men who are the perpetrators. But the victims are our daughters and our sisters. We should not be silent. And we should not make jokes about it. We need both men and women to stand up together against violence in our communities,” said Naw Baw Nyaw Chairperson of KWO in Umpiem Mai Camp.

The report calls on all stakeholders to work together, including men, youth, camp committees and women’s organizations in the camps, as well as refugee committees, INGOs and UNHCR. It also calls for more accountability by donors for supporting the work needed for improving justice in the camps.


Contact People:
Naw Ta Mla Saw – 081 0266738 (Eng and Karen)
Naw Siyo Paw – 089 267 9617 (Burmese, Eng and Karen)
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This post is in: Press Release

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