UN Women is calling for the protection of women and young girls as tensions rise over a month into the Myanmar coup.
The organization condemned the acts of violence against women that have occurred during the crackdown on peaceful protestors on Friday.
“Women have long played a celebrated and vital role in the history of Myanmar,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women executive director, said in a statement. “They continue to do so and must not be attacked and punished for the peaceful expression of their views.”
Women have been on the front lines of the protests and at least six have died since the Myanmar military staged a coup in February. Nearly 600 young women, LGBTQ+ women, and women activists have been arrested. More than 70 people total have reportedly been killed and many more injured, according to the statement.
Protestors are demonstrating in opposition of the Myanmar military who arrested President Win Myint, leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and other activists in February. The military then declared a one-year state of emergency in the city of Naypyidaw. The military coup followed the overwhelming victory of the National League for Democracy party in the November national elections. The military claimed founded election fraud and voting violations.
The recent attacks on women protestors follow Myanmar’s security forces’ recent history of sexual violence.
UN Women Executive Director @phumzileunwomen condemns the violent crackdown in #Myanmar & expresses deep concern over targeted & disproportionate violence against women, calls for respect of the right of women to peaceful assembly & release of all detained https://t.co/Otkhrmnvpe— UN Women Myanmar (@unwomenmyanmar) March 12, 2021
The military has routinely sexually abused Rohingya Muslim women and girls as part of widespread violence against the ethnic minority. Women in the country also generally experience high rates of sexual exploitation, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. One survey found that 21% of participants had experienced intimate partner violence during a one-year period. As gender-based violence has spiked worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s safety continues to be a growing concern in Myanmar.
UN Women warned that the military rule could have life-threatening consequences. The crisis could disrupt essential services that support safe pregnancies and childbirth, especially in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. COVID-19 testing has already collapsed since the military coup.
Mlambo-Ngcuka pointed out that Myanmar ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Violence against women as a form of discrimination is not tolerated under the Convention.
The statement called on Myanmar’s armed forces to protect all demonstrators’ right to protest. Mlambo-Ngcuka also called for women in police custody to be granted their human rights and reiterated that detainees should be released.