Suffering in Silence
(News Source : ReliefWeb)
Many survivors of sexual violence in Southeast Myanmar face numerous obstacles to reporting their case and accessing justice. It remains a widespread problem and according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the number of rape cases reported to the authorities increases from 1,100 in 2016 to 1,405 in 2017. But as with all such statistics, these figures cannot be taken as an accurate reflection of the situation on the ground. Despite these challenges, survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Southeast Myanmar are increasingly coming out to share their stories since the signature of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Some local activists and researchers believe that the #MeToo movement has influenced some women to break the silence. The Myanmar Times has reported that the number of reported rape cases has increased by 18.4% from 2016 to 2017.
Conflict-related sexual violence continues to be perpetrated by the military and members of armed groups. In September 2018, the United Nations independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar reported that the Tatmadaw had been using sexual violence as a ‘weapon of war’ in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States since 2011. It furthermore noted that, given the scale and systemic nature of the abuses, sexual violence was used as part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish the local population, repeating patterns of abuse seen in Southeast Myanmar in the conflict period. According to Human Rights Watch, the military continues to shield soldiers from prosecution, which contributes to a culture of impunity throughout the country.
Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), a humanitarian organization based in Myanmar is in the process of analyzing the root causes of sexual violence in Southeast Myanmar, as well as the challenges faced by survivors of sexual violence in order to formulate recommendations to address this phenomenon.