Karen rights group releases report on abuse against women
A NEW human rights report has highlighted the plight of women and girls in one of the country’s conflict zones. The Karen Human Rights Group’s report: “Hidden Strengths, Hidden Struggles: Women’s Testimonies from Southeast Myanmar” comes 10 years after “Dignity in the Shadow of Oppression”, the group’s account of the issues confronting Karen women.
The detailed portrayal of women’s voices in the latest report is based on an analysis of 1048 documents, including 98 interviews with women, collected by KHRG between January 2012 and March 2016.
‘Hidden Strengths, Hidden Struggles’ covers the period beginning with the ceasefire agreement between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Myanmar government up to the signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement in October 2015, followed by the November election, to analyse the changes that occurred during the transition.
It describes women’s perspectives, including health and education, livelihoods and development, as well as the questions of abuse, agency and access to justice, entailing forced labour, gender-based violence, land confiscations and landmines, arbitrary taxation, and extortion.
KHRG presents its report as a tool in developing awareness of local women’s concerns and agency in the peace process, and illustrates for the general public women’s perceptions of the situation on the ground in rural southeast Myanmar.
Naw Eh Thaw, advocacy coordinator of KHRG, said the interviews were taken from village residents that were then analysed by peer groups.
“One of our difficulties while we were gathering data for the report was the safety of local residents and our staff in the field,” she said, adding that military forces posed a security threat despite the existence of a ceasefire.
Naw Eh Thaw said the report exposed accurately in detail the threats posed to women by the situation in the zone.
“Gender-based abuse continues. There is a system by which women who are raped are offered some money [instead of justice]. There are still weaknesses in education, justice and other forms of support,” she said.
The long distances between villages and the remote location of health centres and primary schools disproportionately affected girls and women. No medical facilities existed even for pregnancy and childbirth. Where facilities did exist, respondents questioned the level of training and skills of the government staff, citing instances of untrained healthcare workers prescribing incorrect dosages of medication, the report said.
A coordinator for the Karen Human Rights Group reported some difficulty keeping safe while compiling the report.