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APHR urges international action to protect women in Myanmar amid escalating gender-based violence

Amid rising gender-based violence in Myanmar, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urges swift global action to protect women.

They demand the UN Security Council refer the junta to the International Criminal Court (ICC), seeking justice for systematic sexual violence and other crimes against humanity perpetrated by the military regime.

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JAKARTA, INDONESIA: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has intensified calls for urgent global intervention to safeguard women in Myanmar amid growing concerns over the surge in gender-based violence, exacerbated by the military junta’s mounting losses.

Expressing distress over the historical deployment of sexual and gender-based violence as tactics of warfare by Min Aung Hlaing’s regime, APHR Chair and Indonesian House of Representatives member, Mercy Barends, underscored fears of heightened atrocities as a retaliatory response to recent setbacks suffered by the junta.

“Sexual and gender-based violence has long been used as a weapon of war by Min Aung Hlaing’s junta, and we are concerned that this will escalate as the junta seeks retaliation for their recent losses,” said Mercy Barends said in a statement issued on Friday (8 Dec).

“The international community must not allow this to happen.”

As Naw Hser Hser of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said in her statement to the United Nations Security Council earlier this year, “using sexual violence to attack civilian populations has long been the military’s modus operandi.”

In 2017, Human Rights Watch found that the military had systematically used gang rape and other forms of sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls.

Meanwhile, since the attempted coup in February 2021, the WLB has documented over 100 cases of conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, though the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

A 2022 Amnesty International report also found that women and LGBTI post-coup detainees were subjected to “sexual violence, harassment and humiliation including invasive body searches.”

Amnesty recounted that one transwoman detainee, Saw Han Nway Oo, was tortured and mocked for using feminine pronouns.

Another woman detainee, Ma Htoo, said that male guards would come into the women’s cells at any time.

“We urge the international community to prioritize making international accountability mechanisms available for the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar,” said Barends.

“A lack of action only emboldens the junta to continue to commit these violations with impunity.”

As part of this, APHR calls on the UN Security Council to refer the Myanmar junta to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and use universal jurisdiction to prosecute the junta for the systematic sexual violence as well as other crimes of humanity that it has committed.

“ASEAN, particularly the chairmanship ‘troika’, must realize that even as the junta continues to suffer military defeats, the regime is inevitably going to escalate its violence against the civilian population, which will no doubt result in more cases of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Barends.

APHR, therefore calls on ASEAN to pressure the UN Security Council to adopt strong measures to ensure the junta’s compliance to Security Council Resolution 2669, including targeted economic sanctions, a comprehensive arms embargo, as well as the aforementioned referral to the ICC.“

“As we approach the third Human Rights Day since the illegal coup, the international community still has not done nearly enough to defend and uphold the human rights of the people of Myanmar. ”

“We hope that this shameful pattern ends today,” said Barends.

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