On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we, Women’s Peace Network, remember the victims and survivors of this heinous crime and urge the international community to pursue comprehensive and concrete actions to provide them justice.
We are devastated by the worsening situation in Myanmar, where more and more women and girls are being subjected to the Burmese military’s atrocities. In nearly two years since the attempted coup, the military has murdered over 300 women, arbitrary arrested and detained at least 3,400 and tortured hundreds of thousands more.
The junta continues to intensify its use of sexual and gender-based violence across the country’s growing areas of armed conflict, as well as prisons and detention centres. The military’s recent murder in illegal custody of Ma Poe Thandar Aung, a healthcare worker who was imprisoned for joining the civil disobedience movement, should serve as a reminder that no woman or girl in Myanmar is safe under the patriarchal, misogynistic and criminal junta.
We fear that such a situation will continue to deteriorate, just as it has done so for ethnic minorities in Burma. The Burmese military has long wielded sexual violence as a weapon of war against these communities, which include Chin, Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, Shan.
The most marginalised among these groups, the Rohingya, remain targeted by the military in its attempts to destroy their identity and existence: since 1 February 2021, the junta has arbitrarily arrested and detained nearly 800 women and girls and issued further restrictions against the over 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmar. The women and girls of the over one million Rohingya refugees are also at heightened risk of being subjected to sexual assault and domestic violence in refugee camps, as well as detention centres, in South and Southeast Asia.
Therefore, we urge the international community to pursue measures to bring accountability and justice to women and girls across Myanmar.
Governments must immediately pursue targeted economic sanctions and financial penalties against the Burmese military and its related businesses, including the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, and block the sales and other transfer of weapons and aviation fuel to its forces.
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These measures should be taken by the UN Security Council, which should uphold its mandate as well as its Responsibility to Protect and Women, Peace, and Security agendas to issue a resolution, also referring the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or establishing a special or ad-hoc tribunal on it.
We call upon governments to support the International Court of Justice’s The Gambia v Myanmar with actions to help Rohingya victims and survivors achieve their justice, such as by exploring universal jurisdiction to prosecute the Burmese military for its decades-long international crimes.
Lastly, we believe that the international community should take such comprehensive and concerted actions in a way that reflects our reality on the ground. In this context, governments and international organisations must recognise the crimes that the Burmese military has committed against the country’s women and girls, especially genocide against the Rohingya and crimes against humanity throughout Myanmar.
Countries should also provide protection, mental health support, and financial and material assistance to these survivors, as well as civil society organisations, especially women’s organisations. Throughout this process, we remind the international community to consult with these groups and their communities such that it adopts a victim-centered approach to all its relevant justice and accountability mechanisms.
To eliminate all forms of violence against women in Myanmar, the international community must support the country’s struggle to end its decades-long cycle of impunity. This is the only way the Burmese military will be held accountable, justice will be served to our communities, and we will finally begin to find peace, freedom and democracy. – Women’s Peace Network