Il­licit drug use helps fuel do­mes­tic vi­o­lence: ac­tivists

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­

LONG a known pub­lic health scourge for Myan­mar, drug use is also fu­elling gen­der-based vi­o­lence in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to ac­tivists.

“Some do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases and drugs [use] are linked,” said U Thein Kyi, a cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber of the Myan­mar Anti -Nar­cotics As­so­ci­a­tion (MANA). “In some house­holds, drug [use] is the main rea­son for un­ex­pected vi­o­lence hap­pen­ing be­tween hus­band and wife, or par­ents and chil­dren.”

As the is­sue has been given greater at­ten­tion in re­cent years, the MANA and the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA) have been work­ing to­gether to ad­dress gen­der-based vi­o­lence by giv­ing aware­ness train­ing to po­lice of­fi­cers in how to han­dle these par­tic­u­lar cases. The aim is to high­light the key role po­lice can play in both the pre­ven­tion and re­sponse to cases of gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

In­di­ca­tions that il­licit nar­cotics use was a “main prob­lem” in these cases was the rea­son his as­so­ci­a­tion be­came in­volved in the po­lice train­ings, U Thein Kyi said.

The MANA mem­ber em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of rais­ing aware­ness among both men and women in com­bat­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence. That means some­times chal­leng­ing tra­di­tional cul­tural and so­cial norms, he said, such as the prob­lem­atic no­tion that the spousal dy­namic of hus­band and wife is one of owner and prop­erty, mak­ing it ac­cept­able for a hus­band to beat or oth­er­wise mis­treat his wife.

Sim­i­lar ideas about par­ent-child re­la­tion­ships were equally “un­ac­cept­able”, U Thein Kyi said.

The chair of a women’s com­mit­tee for the Kar­lan IDP camp in Kutkai town­ship, north­ern Shan State, of­fered anec­do­tal proof of the as­ser­tion that drug use was con­tribut­ing to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“In our camps, the drug users or al­co­hol-ad­dicted house­holds fight and vi­o­lence hap­pens more than nor­mal house­holds. The men be­come ad­dicted to drugs and they ig­nite prob­lems in the fam­ily and beat or scold the wife and chil­dren,” Daw Yein Nu said.

U Thein Kyi stressed the im­por­tance of re­port­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in or­der to com­bat it, say­ing those who hide such cases were only po­ten­tially ex­ac­er­bat­ing the sit­u­a­tion.

Daw Yein Nu said part of her com­mit­tee’s role, in con­junc­tion with com­mu­nity lead­ers, was to field do­mes­tic abuse com­plaints and in­ter­vene when nec­es­sary. She said given com­mu­nity lead­ers’ con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence in IDP camps, women have typ­i­cally ex­pe­ri­enced less vi­o­lence, or an end to do­mes­tic abuse en­tirely, af­ter they have come for­ward.

A mem­ber of the Kachin Bap­tist Church who deals with cases of gen­der-based vi­o­lence at an­other IDP camp in Kutkai town­ship, Daw Zaung Yen, said the en­camp­ments them­selves were part of the prob­lem.

“Men drink and use drugs due to a lack of op­por­tu­nity to do busi­ness,” she said. “There are more prob­lems in that kind of house­hold.”

Cur­rently, there is no leg­is­la­tion on the books that specif­i­cally ad­dresses gen­der-based vi­o­lence, leav­ing com­mu­nity lead­ers – par­tic­u­larly in re­mote ar­eas and con­flict zones – to serve as the pri­mary pro­tec­tors of women.

The draft­ing of a Na­tional Law on Pro­tec­tion and Pre­ven­tion of Vi­o­lence against Women has been in the works for years but has yet to be tabled in par­lia­ment.

Any law would likely in­clude pro­vi­sions on pro­vid­ing po­lice with the kind of train­ing be­ing of­fered by the MANA-UNFPA part­ner­ship.

Daw Seng Hkham, a gen­der­based vi­o­lence co­or­di­na­tor for the Metta Foun­da­tion, which is work­ing to com­bat such abuse in part by rais­ing aware­ness among com­mu­ni­ties in Kachin State, said strong com­mu­nal and fa­mil­ial sup­port net­works were also im­por­tant for vic­tims of gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

“GBV [gen­der-based vi­o­lence] is pre­ventable,” she said.

Photo: UNFPA/Yenny Gam­ming

The Myan­mar Anti-Nar­cotics As­so­ci­a­tion and a UN agency have part­nered to train po­lice about gen­der-based vi­o­lence.

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