Target: President Thein Sein
Goal: Revise legislation to facilitate the prosecution of military rapists
A recent report from a women’s rights group in Myanmar has shed light on a disturbing pattern there: more than one hundred rapes have taken place in politically unstable regions. The perpetrators are members of the armed forces, and the rapes are used to intimidate local residents. Help put an end to the use of rape as a war tactic.
Three years ago, Myanmar (also known as Burma) “ended a half-century of brutal military rule,” the Associated Press reports. However, military influence is still strong in the Southeast Asian country, with military personnel occupying “a quarter of all seats in parliament.” It is largely due to this influence that prominent public figures have not spoken out about the prevalence of military-sanctioned rapes. The recent rape of a seven-year-old girl by a soldier in the state of Shan, however, has provoked public outcry and resulted in an anomaly: the accused rapist is being tried in civilian court rather than before a military tribunal.
According to the report released by the Women’s League of Burma, most rape cases never end up in court at all. The ones that do generally go before military tribunals, which “usually result in immediate acquittals,” the AP reports. The league’s report also reiterated that the rapes, which often take place in front of the woman’s husband or other people, are not “random, isolated acts by rogue soldiers” but are instead “widespread and systematic,” indicating that “[r]ape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression.” The league maintains that this oppression will continue until the government revises its constitution to protect civilians from military rapes and hold military officers accountable for their actions.
Citizens of Myanmar have already begun to voice their outrage over the actions of the military personnel meant to protect them. Add your voice and support the push to alter Burmese law to protect civilians from rape.
Dear President Sein,
Rape is not inevitable. It is not acceptable under any circumstances. And it is not an acceptable war tactic for members of the military to employ against civilians as a form of intimidation. However, in many regions of Myanmar, rape is widely used as “an instrument of war and oppression,” the Women’s League of Burma reports. The league decries military rapes in regions like Shan and Kachin as “widespread and systematic,” and maintains that they indicate a “structural pattern.” There can be no resolution to such a deeply-entrenched problem without a large governmental response. I therefore urge you to revise Myanmar’s constitution to address military rapes of civilians.
Because the military still maintains such a strong influence in Myanmar, crimes within its ranks are often hurried to what those in power deem a favorable conclusion–rape cases rarely come to trial, and those that do are heard before military tribunals and often result in “immediate acquittals,” the Women’s League reports. Meanwhile, communities in already-unstable areas live in fear.
The recent civilian trial of Maung Win Htwe, who is accused of raping a seven-year-old girl in Shan, is a step in the right direction toward justice for victims, their families, and their communities, but true justice is still far-off. The government must impose strict, consistent sentences for those convicted of rape, and it must take immediate steps to protect civilians from sexual violence and prevent such atrocities before they happen. This must begin with an institutional overhaul for the military. There is no time to waste.
Do not wait for another hundred women and children to be violently raped before acting. Amend Myanmar’s constitution and make institutionalized war rapes a thing of the past in Myanmar.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Arkaryeyint2009 via Wikimedia Commons