International Women’s Day – Karen Demand Equality, An End to Gender-Based Violence And An End to Violence Against Student Protesters

Karen women commemorated International Women’s Day by paying tribute to the many women who fought for justice and equality.

Naw Marry Htay, chairperson of Karen Women Organization Dooplaya district spoke to Karen News about what the day meant to her.

“On this special day, I would like to say that it is important [the ability of] our women are recognized. In addition, it is important we have equal right. There must be equality in health, education and management for us. It is a very honorable and valuable day that we should never forget to commemorate as many lives of women sacrificed fighting for today. ”

The Karen Women’s Organisation released a statement that said that the day was important for all women and offer its support.

“The Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) joins women around the world in celebrating the achievements and lives of women. In recognizing the struggle of our mothers, and their mothers, for empowerment, equality, justice, and freedom, we bring that struggle into this generation with the hope that the next generation will see those dreams fully realized.”

In its statement the KWO made three demands on the Burmese government. The KWO said it was “deeply shocked to see the vicious crack down on peaceful student demonstrators by U Thein Sein’s Government. The use of force by the government was inexcusable and a direct violation of the human rights of women and students everywhere to protest peacefully. We condemn this act by the government and stand unequivocally with the students. The government’s actions bring shame to all the people of Burma.”

The KWO demanded the government “release of all the women political prisoners and activists currently being held in Burma. It is past time for the government to fully honor its public commitments to release all political prisoners and to fully respect freedom of speech and assembly.”

The KWO used this year’s International Women’s Day to urge the government “end the ongoing use of gender-based violence by the Burma 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. The lack of a meaningful investigation and arrests of perpetrators who raped and murdered two Kachin women teachers in January is the most recent known case of these violent crimes.”

The Karen Women’s Organisation said 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. Lasting peace in Burma cannot be achieved without justice for the women of Burma.”

Naw Pae Pay, a central committee of the Karen Student Network Group supported the statement released by the KWO and spoke to Karen News.

“We should not feel weak being a woman. We have to demonstrate our ability. As men can rule, we can also rule. We all are equal. Our women were perceived as not able to do thing, but today we have our women’s day recognized so, let’s reveal our ability.”

The KWO said that the country’s government was in the process of considering pieces of legislation that “restrict women’s basic human rights. We call on the Government of Burma not to pass the so called, “Marriage Law” and the National Race Protection Law. Women and men must be permitted to make their own decisions about whom to marry. This law is an insult to all women of Burma. Our private decisions are ours, not those of any government.”

The Karen Women’s Organisation also called on the international community to examine closely government’s actions.

“As many have noted their [government’s] actions in the daily lives of local women, including violence, rape, the seizing of land and the many denials of our rights to live our lives as Karen women show how far they are from the democratic society for which we struggle.

The KWO acknowledged that ther had been some reforms in the country but said the international community had to more.

“Reforms exist but there has been no meaningful progress over the past year and Karen women deserve justice now. All people of Burma need the international community to play its historical role of pressuring the Government of Burma to respect human and democratic rights.”

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