Martyr: Women in Burma’s coup d’etat

1 August 2022

Thirty years ago, Myanmar was not included in the United Nations annual campaign to end violence against women. In recent years, increasing cases of sexual and gender-based violence by the Myanmar military have emerged, particularly against ethnic minorities. In response to these atrocities, the international community issued widespread calls for accountability and justice, which so far have gone unheeded.

Women have emerged as defiant symbols and key leaders of resistance efforts since the military took control of Myanmar in a coup last February. They play a prominent role on the front line of the civil disobedience movement. However, this has put them in jeopardy. Since the coup, the junta has arrested over a thousand women, many of whom have been held in interrogation camps in unknown locations and subjected to severe abuse.

It has been more than one year since the military coup and the military’s terror has continued throughout the country, so it is incredibly hard to see any significant improvement in Myanmar’s divisive political situation. Many are witnessing their future vanish before their eyes. Others are afraid to leave their homes. The human, political, and economic rights Burmese people have enjoyed for a decade are now dwindling.

Despite this, Myanmar has seen the incredible role of women play out in its history. Many young women, farmers, workers, university students, and professionals have joined or formed defense forces to protect and defend themselves and their communities. Women continue to march on the front lines of pro-democracy demonstrations. They also play a significant role in the current civil disobedience movement and advocate for the rights of ethnic minorities.

Women’s groups are essential to empower women and amplify their voices, especially in Burma where women are silenced and oppressed by the ruling forces. The Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) operate in Burma and seek to bring justice to Shan girls and women. To take action against the gender-based violence inflicted by the military rule and to fight for federal democracy, SWAN provide the opportunities for women to participate in politics. Through advocacy, raising awareness, communicating with political officials and leaders, and conducting campaigns, SWAN help to empower women in Burma.

In upcoming years, women’s safety, health, and wealth will continue to be negatively impacted by COVID-19’s compounding impacts and the political upheaval. Not only the women in Burma, but the whole world, most specifically those who are still in the midst of war will experience setbacks. To regain progress toward this, it is important to immediately reverse this trend and take action. As this is not only a fight for people and women in Burma but a fight for all of us, despite our background difficulties. Like a “martyr”, who will fight and die for their people, together we will stand and fight as one.

By Monica P. Acala

Although all blog posts are reviewed by an editorial team, our blog authors all write in a personal capacity and the views expressed are not necessarily those of HART.

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