Mon 21 Jul 2014
Filed under: Ethnic Issues,Human Rights,Inside Burma,Military,News
The Women’s League of Burma, an umbrella group representing 13 women’s organizations in Burma has said that a culture of “systemic impunity” to rape exists in the Burma Army.
The Women’s League of Burma (WLB) issued a statement citing the harassment of Chin women activists by authorities for their involvement in protests calling for greater women’s rights and an end to sexual violence in Burma as evidence that the Burma Army protects rapists within its ranks.
“The high-level intimidation of Chin women activists opposing military sexual violence shows clearly the systemic impunity protecting Burma Army rapists,” the WLB said.
The women’s protests were in response to the alleged attempted rape of a 54-year-old Chin woman by a Burma Army soldier in Razua, Chin State on June 10.
The Women’s League of Burma’s, General Secretary, Tin Tin Nyo, said that Burma’s 2008 Constitution shielded human rights abusers in the Burma Army and had to be reformed.
“Changes to the 2008 Constitution must take place immediately, to remove the blanket amnesty to all former military regimes for their previous crimes, and to bring the military under civilian control. If the military remains outside the law, the women of Burma will continue to endure systematic rape committed with impunity.”
The two protests, held on the 23rd and 24th of June in Razua and Matpui townships, Chin State, were attended by 600 people.
The WLB accused the head of Burma Army forces in Southern Chin State of threatening violence when protestors first requested official permission to demonstrate under Burma’s strict protest laws.
The activists were twice refused and decided to go ahead with the protest ‘illegally.’ Following the demonstration at least four of the activists were charged under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, which can lead to a one-year prison sentence.
“It is extremely disturbing that the backlash on these women activists has not only come from the military establishment, but also from the so-called civilian administration, from the township level right up to the Chin State parliament. “ WLB said, adding, “This reveals clearly the continuing pervasive power of the military at every level of government in Burma, and highlights the urgent need for structural reform to curb this power, in order to protect women from military rape.”
Despite signing the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June 2014, Burma’s government continues to receive criticism from international human rights groups for failing to take enough action against the use of sexual violence by its military.
Burma Campaign UK recently criticized the Burma government for making ‘zero’ progress on ending sexual abuse.
“Rather than implementing the declaration to end sexual violence, the Burmese government has arrested women who protested against the attempted rape of an ethnic Chin woman by a Burmese Army soldier”, said Ms Zoya Phan, Campaigns Manager at Burma Campaign UK in a statement earlier this month.
Rachel Fleming from the Chin Human Rights Organisation confirmed to Karen News at the time that women in Chin State were at constant risk of sexual intimidation or even assault by the authorities.
“I don’t see how Chin women can ever truly feel safe from the threat of sexual violence until they know that there has been a permanent, publicly announced, independently verified withdrawal of Burma Army troops from their towns and villages as part of the peace process – especially as Burma Army soldiers continue to enjoy impunity for their crimes,” she said.
A 2014 report by the WLB documents the rape of more than 100 women and girls, including 47 gang rapes, by the Burma Army since the new government took power in 2011. The WLB report also said that 28 of the women and girls were either killed or later died of their injuries.