HURFOM’s 2020 International Women’s Day Statement: Gender Equality in Burma/Myanmar Impossible until Gender-Based Violence is Addressed

March 8, 2020

Today, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) is celebrating International Women’s Day and the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women not only in Burma/Myanmar but around the world. 

As this year’s theme is #EachforEqual, HURFOM wishes to highlight the need to mobilize to end widespread gender-based violence in Burma/Myanmar if gender equality is to be realized. Sexual violence against women/girls and lack of access to justice is pervasive throughout Burma/Myanmar. Until violence against women is addressed throughout Burma/Myanmar, including at the highest levels of power, gender equality will remain a far-off goal.

Women’s participation in politics and the peace process is one way to start challenging the status quo:

The current reality of women’s representation in sectors across the country and progress on gender equality remains slow. We need to work on these challenges. We welcomed the policy decision of the Mon Unity Party…to pursue increased participation of women as candidates in the 2020 Election. But equality’s meaning is not just one-quarter of the seats at the tables of power; this is the gender gap. I believe that in order to promote women’s participation in politics and peace, those who are already in positions must create special spaces and have concrete plans for women.”

Mi Cherry Soe, Coordinator and Steering Committee Member of the Mon Women’s Network

According to women’s rights activist, Lway Poe Ngeal, gender equality is essential not just for women but for every individual and all nationalities within Burma/Myanmar.

In our society, gender equality is as important as other fundamental aspects of equality, and we need to be concerned with equal opportunities, equitable outcomes, and be able to maintain Substantive Equality. When we talk about Substantive Equality or make equality a reality, we need more collective action, affective policy, and social justice to meet this aim. Whenever we talk about gender equality in our society, we have to use an example. For instance, one is equal to one. However, often women have fewer opportunities for progression and are more vulnerable to exploitation. That’s why when we approach gender equality, we need to understand the concept of women and men as operating on a level playing field. Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially valued goods, opportunities, resources, and rewards. Therefore, if we want stability, peace, and a developed society in Burma, empower them [women], focus more on access to opportunities and resources so that we can hope for the acceleration of gender equality in our country.”

Lway Poe Ngeal, women’s rights activist and General Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma. She recently received the EU’s 2020 Schuman Award for her outstanding merits in defending women’s and minority rights in Burma/Myanmar

Together with women’s rights activists and feminists, we call for economic justice, access to reproductive health rights, bodily autonomy, feminist action for climate justice, the creation and innovation of opportunities for women, and an end to gender-based violence in Burma/Myanmar.

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) is a non-governmental human rights organization founded in 1995 by a group of Mon relief workers, students, and community leaders. HURFOM works to monitor the human rights situation in southern Burma/Myanmar, publishing print and online news, lengthy reports, and analysis of ongoing human rights violations.

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