Two leading Karen Women’s groups, the Karen Women’s Organisation and the Karen Women’s Empowerment Group (KWEG) have urged Burma’s reformist government to improve women’s rights in the country as the world marks international women’s day, arguing that peace could not be reached without respect for women’s rights.
”Lasting peace in Burma cannot be achieved without justice for the women of Burma.” The two groupa said in a joint media statement released today.
”We call for an end to the ongoing use of gender based violence by the Burmese Army in Karen State. Karen women, like all women, should not be forced to live in fear. Members of the Burmese Army currently are able to violate international human rights law with impunity. There is no viable and effective mechanism for women to report crimes safely so perpetrators can be brought to justice.” The groups said.
The KWO and the KWEG also criticized Burma’s civilian government, maintaining that it failed to hold the military to account for its abuse of civilians.
“The Government’s National Human Rights Commission has no legitimacy, power, or mandate to fully investigate and punish members of the military and has thus far refused to fully investigate claims. This situation for women must end. The women of Burma need a fair and effective process to report crimes, have perpetrators held accountable, and see justice done. We call on the Government of Burma to meet this challenge in honor of International Women’s Day.”
The two Karen groups called on both Burma’s government and Karen political organisations to include more women not only in the peace process, but in decision making roles.
”Karen women have been unwavering supporters of full rights for all Karen people through the more than 60 years of struggle. We have earned our seat at every table where the future of our community is discussed. In addition to the issues all the Karen community is concerned about, Karen women have an important perspective on issues like property rights, food security, rule of law, education, transitional justice and gender-based violence.
The Karen women’s organization called on the government and ethnic armed groups involved in the peace talk to recognized the contribution women can make.
“The international community has long recognized the important contribution women can and should make to peace. It is time the Government of Burma and those representing the ethnic people of Burma do the same.”
The two groups also expressed concern over the country’s proposed marriage law, also known as the National Race Protection Law, which would place restrictions on a woman’s right to marry whom they please, regardless of ethnic background.
“This law is an insult to all the women of Burma. We do not need the Government of Burma treating us like objects, especially when it comes to our private decisions. The proposed law must be rejected.”
The KWO and KWEG urged the government keep its pledge to release all remaining political prisoners in Burma, which included women.
“It is time for the Government to fully honor its public statements and release all political prisoners allowing full freedom of speech and assembly.”