Myanmar: Towards ending sexual violence against ethnic women

May 1, 2014

Our partners on the Myanmar/Burma border have welcomed a report by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advocating for an investigation into crimes of sexual violence perpetrated by the military in Myanmar. The report also highlights the urgent need for constitutional reform to render the military accountable for their crimes against ethnic women.

Although this is a positive step towards ending violence, a recent statement by IWDA partner Women’s League of Burma (WLB) highlights the chronic power imbalance at the source of the problem and resulting failure of the government to address it. The document underlines that “previous government-led investigations into military rape have not only failed to deliver justice, but have led to further humiliation and intimidation of rape survivors and their communities”.

IWDA partner the Karen Women Organisation (KWO) reiterates this in a recent post on their website, adding that the current system in which the military holds a quarter of parliamentary seats prevents constitutional amendments. As further emphasised by KWO’s Secretary Naw K’nyaw Paw: “These crimes are more than random, isolated acts by rogue soldiers. Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern: rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression.”

Both WLB and its member organisations therefore urgently call for an independent international inquiry into the issue to address structural challenges currently stalling further action. Ultimately, as emphasised by Women’s League of Burma: “Unless and until the military is placed under civilian control through constitutional change, sexual abuses against ethnic women will not stop, and the same pattern of impunity will continue.”

For further information:

Women’s League of Burma Statement 

‘Same Impunity, Same Pattern’, January 2014- a report by the Women’s League of Burma

Karen Women Organisation original post

United Nations Secretary- General Report