Today, Myanmar and countries around the world are celebrating International Women’s Day. Since its inception roughly 110 years ago, International Women’s Day has provided a forum for women to protest discrimination and express solidarity across religious, ethnic, and social divides. Without question, International Women’s Day has played a critical role in increasing awareness of gender equality issues around the world and in catalyzing action to end gender-based discrimination.
Today, International Women’s Day is taking place against a backdrop of unprecedented social mobilization for women’s rights and gender equality globally. Ending violence against and sexual harassment of women and girls, ensuring the reproductive and sexual health and rights of women and girls, and engaging male champions are the clarion call of campaigns and movements including “UNiTE to End Violence Against Women”, “End Violence Now – 1 Billion Rising”, “Me Too”, “She Decides”, “HeForShe”, and “Time’s Up”. In Myanmar, the slogans that women’s networks and organizations are rallying for today include “Press for Progress” and “It’s Not OK”, which aims to challenge and influence change in attitudes and behaviors that condone and tolerate violence against women and girls in Myanmar society.
Global evidence demonstrates an unacceptably high prevalence of violence against women and girls in all countries, with alarming figures documented in countries in, or transitioning out of, conflict. In Myanmar, women’s networks and organizations have repeatedly highlighted that violence against women and girls is pervasive and that it is a public concern that needs a well-coordinated response, rallying for a comprehensive law to prevent and prosecute violence against women and girls.
Today, March 8, the Nordic diplomatic missions of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden join women’s networks and organizations and gender equality advocates in Myanmar in celebrating International Women’s Day and in advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Ending violence against women and girls is fundamental to this agenda, and we urge the government of Myanmar to adopt and enact comprehensive legislation to protect women and girls from violence.
Peter Lysholt Hansen is ambassador of Denmark; Riikka Laatu is ambassador of Finland; Tone Tinnes is ambassador of Norway; Johan Hallenborg is head of office of the Embassy of Sweden, Section Office Yangon.