- By Khaing Khaing Win
Humans differ with each other in a variety of ways – country, religion, race, language, culture, and gender. Discrimination against women is not new. Historically, women have been denied rights to vote, passed up for promotions and discriminated for being who they are. Assaulting and/or sexually abusing women, especially children who are not yet teenagers, is a grave violation of international human rights. Targeted abuse against women is also known as gender-based violence. Such kinds of crimes not only hinder the country economic ascent, but also affects the legitimacy of democracy where equality and rule of law are pillars of the system.
Abuse Against Women
The term “abuse against women” doesn’t only mean physical violence; there are other kinds of abuse women face such as mental abuse, economic abuse (financially controlling), sexual assault, genital mutilation, trafficking and forced marriages. Gender discrimination in the w orkplace as well as at home are also common. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence by their intimate partner. This is not be limited to sexual assault or violence and includes a range of behaviors such as slapping, shoving, pushing.
The abuse can last both short-term and long term. No matter the time length, the damage has been done- the victim has surely suffered physically and mentally from the assault. There are lots of health problems that can follow as well including sexually transmitted diseases (eg. HIV), unwanted pregnancy, disfiguration, stress, depression, PTSD and death. According to research, disabled women are more likely to be victims of abuse compared to abled counterparts. Children who grew up experiencing sexual abuse are more likely to have mental health complications which can hinder their growth.
Violence against Women in Myanmar
More than half of Myanmar’s population is women. Although it is difficult to get statistics on the whole country for violence against women, the Myanmar Police Force has reflected on its crime rates and warned that there is an increase in violence against women in Myanmar. There has been an alarmingly increasing number of reports on sexually abusing children. This is not counting the cases that goes unreported, either due to social pressure, fear of being socially shunned or in areas that is physically hard to reach. In cases like this, a prompt response is necessary to catch the perpetrator so that they won’t be able to commit such crimes again.
It is still quite uncommon to see discussions on violence against women across Myanmar. This may be quite to the negative stigma attached to being a victim which discourages them from reporting a crime as well as pressure from relatives and family keeping the incident in the family so they don’t lose face amongst their neighbors. Others do not see domestic violence as a problem while others are afraid that they might suffer more abuse if they report. Some are unaware of the law enforcement mechanism that exists. All the factors contribute to silence from the victims and/or the people around the victim who are aware of the violence. Studies have also highlighted that most of the reports from the victim results in almost little to no justice for them with the perpetrator often walking free or serving the minimal sentence.
Protecting the Victims
Myanmar has also signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) with its core principles of equality and non-discrimination in 1997 to address women’s rights to non-discrimination within political, civil, cultural, economic, social and family spheres. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement is the Focal ministry in forming national to local organizations that will work towards combating targeted crimes against women. There are also plans to draft a new law specifically targeting against perpetrators of violence against women. There are also women organizations that are working towards providing free legal assistance for victims to make it easier for them to get justice. There are also several organizations with different purposes such as raising awareness for gender equality, providing vocational training for women so they can be financially independent as well as those that teach women self-defense. July 3rd also marks the annual Women’s Day in Myanmar with the country celebrating women across the country with discussions, panels, talks, and parades.