Women Protest Sexual Violence by Soldiers in Chin State

By Nang Seng Nom 25 June 2014

RANGOON — More than 130 ethnic Chin women participate in a protest against the Burmese military’s alleged use of rape as a weapon of war in Matupi Township.

Protest leaders said the demonstration on Tuesday aimed to draw attention to sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers against women and children in Matupi, as well as to enhance awareness of women’s rights issues among local residents.

Al Li, secretary of the Chin Women’s Association, said six local women in Matupi had been raped by Tatamadaw soldiers, with the latest case on June 10.

“The police arrested this rapist soldier, but we don’t know yet what will happen next,” the protest organizer said.

Al Li said the Chin activists’ initial request seeking permission for the protest march was rejected by local law enforcement, but was later allowed to proceed.

“The police told us not to march to avoid traffic, but we marched as we said we would, to raise the issue of women being abused,” she said.

Many ethnic Chin women lack formal schooling and are poorly versed in women’s rights issues, Al Li said, adding that greater efforts to educate the women were needed.

The local women said increased Burmese Army troop deployments in Chin State since 2010 had left many locals fearing for their safety and reluctant to cultivate their farmlands due to the presence of soldiers in the area.

Burma signed the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997, but women’s rights activists say the government has yet to take meaningful steps to ensure the protection of women’s rights.

In a January 2014 report, the Thailand-based Women’s League of Burma accused members of the military of raping more than 100 women since 2010. The rape incidents’ “widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern: rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression,” the report said.

In April, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for the Burmese government to investigate the claims of rape by soldiers.