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Any Progress for the Lives of Women in Burma since Beijing ?

By: Women’s League of Burma
Publication date: February 2005

Ten years have passed since the Beijing Conference. Some sisters around the world have acknowledged that there has been some progress related to commitment towards the BPFA on the part of governments. But for women from Burma, nothing has changed.

English

SPDC and the Beijing Process:
Burma’s ruling military regime, now called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been participating at women’s forums at the UN since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. SPDC sent a delegation led by a male military officer to the Beijing Conference. In 1996, it established the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs (MNCWA), whose patrons were all men. Working committees were formed at different levels: state, division, district, township and ward/village. Almost all were led by wives of SPDC personnel.

Other government organized women’s organizations [GONGOs] were formed, namely: the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA); the Myanmar Women Sports Federation (MWSF), and the Myanmar Women Entrepreneur Association (MWEA). In December 2004, the MNCWA was renamed the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation (MWDF).

In 1997, the SPDC signed the CEDAW, and submitted their first report to the CEDAW committee in 2000. Their delegation to the committee was led by a man.

As for implementation of the BPFA, the SPDC identified six areas as the first phase for a national plan for action. They were: Education and Training, Health, Economy, Violence against Women, the Girl Child, and “Culture,” an area not outlined in the BPFA.

SPDC sent a delegation, again led by a man, to the Beijing Plus + 5 Conference in June 2000, and submitted a report. In September 2004, they submitted a similar report to the UNESCAP High-level Intergovernmental Meeting to review the regional implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. They added two more areas: Environment and Media. The SPDC claimed that the areas they had identified were more relevant for the “Myanmar” context.

The SPDC’s reports on the implementation of the BPFA completely ignored the extreme poverty in Burma resulting from their ongoing military expansion, excessive army expenditure and gross mismanagement of the economy, which has had a grave impact on women and children. Moreover, there was no mention of the half-acentury long civil war between the military regime and the ethnic groups. Instead they state: “The area of Women in Armed conflict is not relevant to present day-Myanmar, since the country has been in peace for decades.” Regarding Critical Area of Concern D – Violence Against Women, they responded that “very few cases exist regarding violence against women” in Burma, and “it is not a major issue”.

It is not surprising to see such reports from the SPDC, which boasted at the Beijing conference that “Since the inception of Myanmar civilization 2000 years ago, there has been historical evidence that Myanmar women and men did enjoy equal rights.” WLB and the Beijing Process: The Women’s League of Burma (WLB), since its formation in December 1999, has been exposing systematic human rights abuses including various forms of sexual violence against women, particularly in rural and ethnic areas, by the military regime. It has also been pointing out the gaps in the SPDC’s reports, and highlighting persistent and emerging issues for the women of Burma.

The WLB revealed the problems faced by women and girls in the rural and ethnic areas due to armed conflict in its shadow report on CEDAW, and also in its alternative review of the Beijing Plus Five.

The WLB has repeatedly lobbied governments to address the root causes of problems faced by women and girls in Burma.

This WLB Little Purple Book was compiled using data shared during a WLB Beijing Plus Ten lobbying workshop by participants from women’s organisations, and stories compiled by the WLB Violence Against Women Team. It is deliberately concise, in order to be used as a lobbying document at the Beijing Plus Ten: CSW 49th Session in New York, February 28-March 11, 2005.

The WLB strongly believes that only genuine political change and the restoration of the rule of law in Burma can guarantee the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls in Burma.