Women's Groups Condemn Sexual Violence by Govt Army

By Saw Yan Naing 4 February 2013

Thirty-one ethnic women’s groups in Burma have condemned the government army for committing sexual abuses against women in war-torn Kachin State, in contravention of UN conventions to which Burma is a signatory.

The groups released a joint statement on Sunday saying that the government has ignored not only the Geneva Convention governing the conduct of war, but also a treaty that forbids discrimination against women in any form.

The groups made the statement after finishing a workshop on peace-building and conflict transformation in Rangoon from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, which was attended by 43 female representatives from different parts of the country.

The statement read: “We call for special care and priority to be given to the protection of civilians, especially women and children. This is in compliance with the spirit and content of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, 1674, the Geneva Convention and the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Myanmar is a party.”

“We call for an immediate end to the ongoing intense offensives in Kachin state,” read the statement.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Monday, Susanna Hla Hla Soe, the general secretary of the Rangoon-based Karen Women’s Action Group, said that Burma signed the CEDAW in 1997, but still doesn’t implement it in practice.

“Kachin women representatives who attended the workshop emotionally expressed their sadness and  concern about how women and girls are suffering from ill treatment. I was very sad to hear their terrible stories of sexual violence, such as gang rape against women and girls,” said Hla Hla Soe.

“Burma needs to implement a law protecting women as soon as possible,” she added.

Burma’s former military regime signed the CEDAW in 1997, agreeing to reduce discrimination against women, stop rape and other forms of violence against women and form a way for women to file complaints if their rights are abused.

The women’s groups, who represented Karen, Kachin, Shan, Arakanese, Mon, Karenni and other ethnic minorities, also called for the inclusion of ethnic women’s civil society organizations in all aspects of peace processes undertaken by the government and ethnic organizations.

The women’s groups also urged international donors to support their efforts to end not only war, but also violence and other forms of discrimination against women.

“We urge donor organizations supporting Myanmar’s peace processes and organizations implementing peace programs to be transparent, inclusive and to ensure gender equality in all aspects of their work.”