Burma’s government withheld support for a declaration of the UN General Assembly this week which seeks to end sexual violence in conflict zones. The declaration was signed by 113 UN member countries and pledges not to allow amnesties for sexual violence in peace agreements.
“Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence,” spearheaded by the United Kingdom, “pledges to adopt a new international protocol next year to ensure that evidence collected in abuse cases can stand up in court, and to support civil society organizations to improve monitoring and documentation in cases of sexual violence.”
“They don’t want to admit that they have actually committed these kinds of crimes—I think that is one reason they do not want to sign,” Tin Tin Nyo, general secretary of the Thailand-based Women’s League of Burma, told The Irrawaddy of the Burma government’s refusal to sign. “If they sign, they will have to follow up on a lot of cases of sexual violence in the country. Many crimes have happened with impunity, but the cases we have recorded have not seen any legal justice.”
Countries will be able to continue to add their endorsement to the Declaration until October 4th. UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, stated,
I am delighted that so many countries have supported this Declaration: a clear majority of the members of the United Nations. This is a milestone towards shattering impunity for those who commit horrific sexual crimes during times of war.
Download “Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict” (PDF)
Burma’s military continues to use rape as a military weapon despite political reforms. It has been very well documented repeatedly for many years. Burma was among 80 nations that did not sign.
Burma’s refusal to sign has raised concerns about the quasi-civilian regime’s commitment to tackling gender-based violence in a country marred by decades of civil conflict and allegations of rape.
Burma’s 2008 constitution protects the army from prosecution for crimes committed during previous conflicts.
Zainab Bangura, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, stated,
“Your presence here today sends a message to vulnerable people everywhere around the globe. That the international community will not stand by as their bodies are used as battlefields for political and military advantage. The days when sexual violence in conflict was dismissed as an unfortunate by product of war was gone. Now that we have changed attitudes, we must also prevent actions to prevent and eradicate these crimes.”
In June William Hague called on the United Nations to “consign the use of rape as a weapon of war to the pages of history.” United Nations Security Resolutions 2106 was unanimously adopted.
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Tumbler, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict
Despite Ceasefire, Sexual Violence Continues in Shan State: Women’s Group (Women’s League of Burma)