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Research papers, case studies, situationers and other documents on Burmese women, their rights and their involvement in politics, governance and decision-making

Status of Women in Myanmar Under Specific CEDAW Articles (2000)
The Constitution of Myanmar guarantee equality before the law “regardless of race, religion, status, or sex. But it does not explicitly prohibit discrimination against women. And although, the government of Myanmar has established two mechanisms to promote women’s enjoyment of their human rights, the Maternal Welfare and Child Association, and the Myanmar Women Entrepreneurs Association the leadership of these two bodies is comprised of women who are related or married to high-ranking SPDC officers. Critics say that these organizations have no independent authority or expertise in establishing equality for women. For instance,  women in Myanmar continue to have no representation at the national level today.  The 19-member SPDC is all male, and there are no women in the 39-member cabinet.  Women are not represented in the military. The government even sent an all-male delegation to the 1995 UN Conference on Women in Beijing. BACK TO TOP

Women's Rights in Burma (2000)
In general women traditionally have enjoyed a high social and economic status and have exercised most of the same basic rights as men.  Consistent with traditional culture, women keep their names after marriage and often control family finances.  However, women remained underrepresented in most traditional male occupations, and women continued to be barred effectively from a few professions, including the military officer corps.  The burden of poverty, which is particularly widespread in rural areas, also fell disproportionately on women. Download this report (MSWord Document 25kb) now from US State Department. BACK TO TOP

Unsung Heroines: The Women of Myanmar (AI-2000)
Women in Myanmar have been subjected to a wide range of human rights violations, including political imprisonment, torture and rape, forced labor, and forcible relocation, all at the hands of the military authorities. At the same time women have played an active role in the political and economic life of the country. It is the women who manage the family finances and work alongside their male relatives on family farms and in small businesses. Women have been at the forefront of the pro-democracy movement which began in 1988, many of whom were also students or female leaders within opposition political parties. This report from Amnesty International details the imprisonment of at least 61 women for political reasons and looks into the conditions of these female political prisoners. BACK TO TOP

Trapped and Neglected: Women from Burma in Bangladesh
From 1991 to 1992 almost 250,000 Rohingyas from the Arakan state in Burma fled to Bangladesh to escape from forced labor, rape and religious persecution at the hands of Burmese military. Although repatriation was enforced from 1993 to 1997 the outflow continues. According to Bangladeshi officials and NGOs, there are about 100,000 undocumented Rohingyas in Bangladesh taking daily wage jobs as farmers, vendors, rickshaw drivers, and construction workers. Images Asia, a Thailand-based NGO, conducted research on the situation of Rohingya women. The report reveals stories of Rohingya women being trafficked from the camps to Bangladesh and then into Pakistan. The lack of a durable solution to the problem continues to make the Rohingya population vulnerable to abuses, both in Burma and in Bangladesh. This 2000 feature story from the Asia Pacific Advocate tells us about the plight of these Burmese women refugees. BACK TO TOP

Migration, Exploitation and Trafficking:
Every day, women and men from Burma cross the border to Thailand to search for work. The ongoing civil war, forced labor and forced relocation have uprooted the lives of many thousands, especially in ethnic areas of Burma. Women enter Thailand under various arrangements. Some already have contacts and know where they are going. Others are brought by agents. Some cross the border without prior arrangement and look for jobs through local friends or taxi drivers. Once women join a brothel or work as domestic help, it becomes very difficult for relatives or NGO workers to stay in touch with them. In theory, migration is a voluntary act that does not involve coercion or deception or detention. But their illegal status puts migrants in a vulnerable position. Read more from this feature story from the Asia Pacific Advocate. BACK TO TOP

Women in Burma: Living Under The Gun
Women in Burma have traditionally played a role in society that was equal to men. So it is not very surprising that the National League for Democracy, which won over 80% of the votes in the 1990 election, is led by a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi. But that political party was never allowed to take power, and has been relentlessly persecuted by the ruling military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). Women have been actively resisting the brutal dominance of the SLORC, often at great personal danger. Aung San Suu Kyi herself endured over six years of house arrest, and her life has been threatened by SLORC officials, troops and hired mobs. One of her party members, Dr. Ma Thida, a young physician and writer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her political views, and is suffering from severe health difficulties. Read more from this report on SLORC's oppression of Burmese women. BACK TO TOP

Women in Burma
Like all their fellow citizens, Burma's women face the day-to-day struggles of living under a military dictatorship. But the country's women also face special problems and are often the target of particular abuse. Rape by soldiers is common, and the military has been implicated in the trafficking of Burmese women into prostitution in neighboring Thailand. As many as 40,000 Burmese women, most of them from minority ethnic groups, are believed to be employed in Thai brothels. More from this report from the Burma Project on Women. BACK TO TOP

Women's Rights in Burma (1998)
Women's rights abuses continue to occur in Burma. The existence and continuation of many of these abuses point directly to the military junta's policies, and their failure to reform either the laws or the economic system. Read more from this 1998 report from Images Asia. BACK TO TOP

The Women's Struggle in Burma (1997)
Women played an active role in Burma's struggle for independence—from British colonial rule and Japanese occupation - and remained an organized force under the post-independence government, 1948-58. Ne Win's seizure of power in 1958 and his military dictatorship strangled the women's and other social movements. But with the explosion of people's movements in 1988, Burmese women rose again. Thet Thet Lwin, an executive of the central strike committee in Shan state during the 1988 uprising and a former executive of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, speaks about the women's struggle in Burma in this 1997 Green Left report. BACK TO TOP

Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution of Burmese Women
A fact sheet on the situation of trafficking and prostitution of Burmese women. This fact sheet includes statistics, case samples and the existing policies and laws related to these problems. BACK TO TOP

Various documents about the situation of women in Burma.
Visit EarthRights' page, or go directly to these document links: BACK TO TOP

Sexual and gender-based violence in the refugee camps
Refugees from Burma came to Thailand for safety and protection from the brutality - the murder, torture, forced labor, and rape -- in Burma. However, while men are relatively safe in the camps, not all women live their lives in freedom there. Instead of security, women in the camps still face gender-based violence, both by Thai guards and within their communities and households. More. BACK TO TOP

School for Rape (1998)
This report seeks to make visible the structural origins of the rape of ethnic Burmese women, with particular attention paid to the institution that nurtures the rapists, the Burmese army. The report is based on primary research consisting of original interviews with defectors from the Burmese army, and villagers who lived in close proximity to the army. More BACK TO TOP

The Situation of Women in Burma (1998) Download this report (Microsoft Word: 68 kb)
The women of Burma suffer particularly deep burdens of the human rights abuses caused by the SPDC's consistent use of military power and violence to maintain control. The difficult political, economic, and social conditions in Burma make women quite vulnerable to a number of critical health problems, including poor development, multiple risks during pregnancy, lack of access to family planning services, AIDS, and a variety of other diseases. This paper emphasizes Burmese women's profound struggle to maintain a healthy environment for themselves and their children in a society in which rape, violence and desertion plagues them. BACK TO TOP

Burma: The Current State of Women in Conflict Areas
A Shadow Report to the 22d
Session of CEDAW (written with support from the WRP) (2000) Download this report (Microsoft Word: 185 kb)
Five indigenous women's organizations from Burma working on the Thai/Burma border produced this Shadow Report, with support from exiled women's organizations located in India and Bangladesh, and from the Burmese government-in-exile. The report focuses on education, health, State-perpetrated violence against women, and poverty, particularly as these issues relate to women in Burma's rural conflict areas. BACK TO TOP

Women's Rights Advocacy Speeches from the Burmese Women's Rights Project of Earth Rights International (ERI)
There are few women from Burma who have the opportunity to present their perspectives and experiences directly to the international community, and to advocate for change on this level. ERI's Women's Rights Project prepare and bring indigenous women to international fora, such as conferences and UN meetings, where they can educate the international community about problems they face, and seek assistance and solidarity. Visit the webpage. BACK TO TOP

Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Refugee Camps (July 2001) Download this speech (Microsoft Word)
Refugees from Burma came to Thailand for safety and protection from the brutality - the murder, torture, forced labor, and rape—in Burma. However, while men are relatively safe in the camps, not all women live their lives in freedom there. Instead of security, women in the camps still face gender-based violence, both by Thai guards and within their communities and households. BACK TO TOP

Intervention at CEDAW Meeting (January 2000) Download this speech (Microsoft Word)
As an obviously masculine institution pervading every sector of Burmese society, Burma's military masculinizes the Burmese culture. This report explains how militarization in Burma has lowered the quality of women's lives, resulting in women's subordination, degradation and horrific victimization. BACK TO TOP

Commission on Human Rights Intervention (2000) Download this speech (Microsoft Word)
This speech highlights women's burden of food security, as it is augmented by forced relocation, forced labor and extortion. BACK TO TOP

Speech on International Women's Day (2000) Download this speech (Microsoft Word)
This speech outlines the ways in which refugee women, struggling for their rights, are working for change with a vision of eventual peace.

The State of Education in Refugee Camps and its Impact on Women (2000)
A Karen woman expresses the need for women in Burma to receive the education that they are denied.
Download this speech (Microsoft Word) BACK TO TOP

Gender and Conflict (1999)
This speech explains the difficulties that Burmese women, plagued by rape and disease, face as a result of the violent military regime.
Download this speech (Microsoft Word) BACK TO TOP

Women's Human Rights in Burma (1999) Download this speech (Microsoft Word)
A Karen woman spells out how the political, economic, and social conditions in Burma make women especially vulnerable to the oppression generated by the Burmese military regime. BACK TO TOP