We’ve all heard about one Burmese woman. But what about the rest?

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Aung San Suu Kyi


The most famous woman in Burma is, of course, Aung San Suu Kyi. In this crucial time of Burmese “elections”  (beearing in mind the elections have been widely condemned as neither free nor fair), she is once again in the headlines as the spotlight turns to the troubled country.

The record of what she has achieved remains incredible. In Burma, women are denied places of importance by the junta. In the government and civil service, the state favours men – specifically those with military experience – and fewer women get the opportunity to gain qualifications, thus pushing these roles even further away from them.

The exiled Women’s League of Burma – an umbrella organization bringing together 12 women’s groups –  and the Nobel Women’s Initiatives brought court initiatives in New York against the state in March this year. The government was consequently found guilty of grave crimes against humanity. As ever, the military government has gone it’s own way and ignored all international condemnation.

An increasing number of women are starting to take action. There are nearly 190 female activists among the estimated 2,200 political prisoners in Burmese jails.

In a nation with a strong tradition of family, with limited resources due to the country’s flailing economy, sons are increasingly favoured over daughters in terms of expensive food, forced to clsoe, fewer young women are qualified to apply for higher career roles – and those with jobs are unlikely to make any complaint against harassment or problems at work due to fear of losing much needed employment. Often raped by soldiers, women (frequently widowed after years of civil war) can be forced to work for free for the junta as porters or labourers.

Very few women in Burma have access to sex education concerning and an increasing number of women and girls are entering Thailand in search of work in order to support their families. Many end up in brothels under conditions that put them at high risk of contracting HIV – some estimates place as many as 40,000 Burmese women in brothels in Thailand.

It’s only right that so much attention is focusing on Ms Suu Kyi. But it would be incorrect for the world to labour under a misapprehension that because one woman has successfully climbed so high up the ladder in the country’s politics, that there is a great deal of opportunity for other women. Aside from the obvious that the whole country is under the control of a military junta with flagrant disregard for it’s people, woman suffer more than many others. According to a report from Images Asia, “with the abrogation of most human rights under the preceding military regime, which had shown little respect for the human dignity of the Burmese people, it is highly likely that women’s human rights abuses continue to occur.”

As we give time to think of Aung Sun Suu Kai in these crucial days, let’s make sure we stop and think about the other, nameless women suffering in that country too.

Burmese women transplanting rice

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