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Burma and the role of Burmese women (r)

Subject: Burma and the role of Burmese women (part 2)

(G) Forced Prostitution of Burmese Women and HIV
	To escape from the daily economic hardships in Burma, which is the
result of economic mismanagement for over 30 years, many women and young
girls from Burma go to neighboring countries with the widespread belief
that there are good employment opportunities there. They are lured by
unscrupulous recruiters to Thailand with promises of good jobs and cash
advance, often paid to their parents and they are sold in the brothels and
forced to work as prostitutes when they get in Thailand.  Since 1989 women
and girls from Burma have formed the bulk of the flesh trade in Thailand.
According to 1992 report, there were at least 40,000 women and child
prostitutes from Burma in Thailand.  This report was released two years
ago so that the numbers has much increased now.  There are similar reports
of the Burmese woman trafficking in Mizoran, India and Burma- China
	With the collusion of police and military personnel from Burma and
Thailand, gang bring young victims across to Thai border towns like Chiang
Mai, Mae Sai, Kanchanaburi, and Ranong where they are sold into forced
prostitution for from US$ 100 to US$ 600.  Although some have gone
willingly for "economic reasons", many have been lured on the false
promise of other jobs, while others have been forced into prostitution and
brutally beaten if they refuse customers or try to escape. 
	Poverty is the common denominator. Many Burmese women are victims
of this trafficking business, but ethnic minority women predominate. Some
girls are sold by their own parents to reduce the economic burden.  A
10-year-old Akka hilltribe girl was sold for 2000 baht by her father . She
was rescued from the brothel in Thailand and repatriated back other six
girls to Burma, according to the Thai official from Interior Ministry. 
	Imprisoned in the dark brothel rooms, speaking no Thai, the girls
from Burma have little chance for escape. Conditions are appalling. They
work without pay in prison-like condition in buildings surrounded with
barbed wire. Those who refuse customers or try to escape are often
brutally treated. 15-year-old Burmese girl rescued from Ranong told that
she was sold for 5000 baht and forced to work as prostitute in the brothel
without pay.  She was forced to have sex with the customer although she
was pregnant. 
	Because of language barriers and the illegal methods by which they
have been brought into Thailand, most Burmese women work in the lowest
class brothels. This puts them at great risk. Since they illegally entered
Thailand and are forced to work, they do not have a chance for the sex
education and medical check-up. This has undoubtedly accelerated the
alarming rise in rates of AIDS and HIV-infection in Thailand. In June 1991
when 25 Burmese prostitutes were rescued after a brothel raid in Ranong,
all of them were found to be HIV-positive, according to a Thai senior
police officer. 
	These HIV-positive women faced other kind of abuses when they got
back to Burma. Persistent reports have arisen regarding SLORC executing
persons with AIDS who have been forcibly repatriated by Thailand to Burma. 
According to The Bangkok Post newspaper, some Burmese girls found to have
AIDS, when sent back to their country, are allegedly reported to have been
given cyanide injections to execute them. 
	Asia Watch, a division of Human Rights Watch based in New York
published a report on the trafficking of Burmese women into Thailand their
confinement in illegal brothels throughout Thailand where they are forced
to work off their debt through what amounts to sexual servitude. It
systematically documented the debt bondage, wide range of abuses,
including illegal confinements; forced labor; rape; physical abuse;
exposure to HIV/AIDS; and in some cases, murder of the Burmese women and
	For Burma, the social and health consequences of the trafficking
of Burmese women are immense. Women returning from prostitution in
Thailand are spreading the HIV infection and adding to the dramatic rise
in the disease already caused by growing intravenous drug use. According
to World Health Organization (WHO) estimate for 1994, Burma has up to
400,000 HIV-carriers (one per cent of the total populaton) today, putting
it on an international emergency rating with both India and Thailand. 
While this estimate is suggested by WHO, there are no reliable figures on
HIV-infection in Burma.  With little testing completed, just over 7,000
cases have been reported.  But on the SLORC side, they declared that there
were 8,191 people with HIV-positive and 334 were full-blown stage,
according to AIDS Disease Control Commttee. 
	To cure the AIDS epidemic in Burma, the government can take a
important role in educating the people. Unless there coordinated and firm
action taken by the concerning governments in the near future, the spread
of AIDS in Burma will continue to grow. For the future of Burmese women,
there is a desrate need for action more than talk.  Burma and
International Laws
	SLORC has signed and ratified some of the international human
rights conventions setting basic manimum benchmarks for the universal
recognition and protections of humna rights, as the member of United
Nations. According to the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", it
said; "Member states have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation
with United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance
of human rights and fundamental freedoms". 
	Moreover, in terms of women rights, the UN Declaration prohibiting
violence against women calls for " the universal application to women of
the rights and principles with regard to equality, security, liberty,
intergrity, and dignity of all human person". All governments including
SLORC are morally obliged to uphold this Declaration. 
	The Burmese military is legally bound under these international
human rights conventions and laws to ensure that the principles enshrined
are adhered.  It is also legally bound by international human rights
treaties not to violate the fundamental human rights of their own citizens
including women and children. 
	In 1993 the UN unequivocally stated that women's rights were human
rights. The Declaration of the UN World Conference on Human Rights held in
Vienna in June 1993 states: "The human rights of women and of the
girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal
human rights." In case of Burma, the pursuit of liberty for women from
oppression and of women's rights in general is inextricably intertwined
with the ongoing struggle for liberation of the whole population from the
SLORC's iron fist and for restoration of democracy and human rights. The
issues cannot be separated. To end the human rights violations including
women's rights in Burma, it is essential to end the SLORC's military
	Slorc is known as one of the notorious human rights violators in
the modern world. But Slorc repeatedly and shamelessly denied the
allegations by the international human rights organizations including UN
Human Rights Commission. Under the Slorc 's military rule there is no
independent right of enquiry or representtions, and no independent
judiciary. All reports of human rights abuses are met with blanket denials
and accusations of outside interference or "neo-colonialism". For example,
in awidely circulated report in April 1993 replying to the documented
criticisms ofthe UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, the Slorc still
insisted that it was incapable of any wrong-doing:  "Myanmar is well-known
for its unique culture, the hall-marks of which are tolerance and
compassion. This cultural environment underpins respect for human rights.
These rights are guranteed not only by law but are encouraged and
practised as a matter of tradition. There is no discrimination in Myanmar
whatsoever on grounds of race, religion or sex."(Working People's Daily, 6
August 1991)
	In line with argument, the Slorc has always invoked the law as the
basis for all its actions in both armed opposition and
government-controlled areas. These affect all Burmese groups equally
regardless of religion, ethnic groups or sex. The law most commonly used
by the Slorc have been the 1950 Emergency Measures Act, the 1957 Unlawful
Associations Act, the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law, and
1975 State Protection Law. Each allows for long periods of imprisonment
for any citizen deemed guilty of criticising the government, and those
arrested have come from virtually every political and ethnic background. 
	Burma has signed a number of interntionally recognized human
rights conventions but failed to adhere the principles and norms of
conventions. It has signed the UN Convention on the Political Rights of
Women (1952), but despite the theoretical equality women are supposed to
enjoy, few have ever reached really senior position. According to the
principles laid down by SLORC for the 'National Convention' convened by
the military junta to draft a new constitution for Burma, the Head of
State is to have experience in military affairs. This would effectively
exclude a woman from becoming a Head of State. 
	Women and children are the most vulnerable victims of human rights
violations by the military in the war-zone. There is a clear evidence that
the majority of the refugees from Burma who have fled Thailand to take
refuge are women and their children. The global situation of women is
inflected in Burma; most of the casualties of war are women and their
children; most of the refugees and displace people are women and their
children;  most of the poor are women and their children in Burma. Over
the years there have been many reports of the arbitrary arrest, shooting
or extrajudicial execution of women in ethnic minority villages by the
SLORC troops. 
	On 24 August 1992, SLORC acceded to the four Geneva Conventions of
1949, which establish the internationally-recognized minimum humane
standards of conduct to be observed in situations of internal or external
armed conflicts. SLORC have to protect the civilians especially women and
children who are most vulnerable during the civil war.  Common Article 3
of the Geneva Conventions, which applies to all parties to an internal
armed conflicts, specifies the following minimum standards: "(1) Person
taking no active part in the hostilities... shall in all circumstances be
treated humanely...". With respect to non-combatants, Common Article 3
prohibits, among other things: 
	"(a) violation o life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,
	       cruel treatment and torture: 
	  (b) taking of hostages; 
	  (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and
	The Burmese military is legally bound under international law to
ensure that the principles enshrined in Common Article 3 are adhered to
and that all civilians are protected from attack, including torture and
extrajudicial executions. In reality, the arrest, extrajudicial execution,
and other forms of human rights violations by SLORC are well- documented
by iternational human rights organizations. Equally disturbing, many of
the worse human rights abuses against women, including summary arrest,
beatings, murder and rape, have been happening in the border areas by the
SLORC's troops. 
	All members of the population are liable to seizure by the army
for forced portering and labor duties. Although men are taken most
frequently, children and women, including those who are pregnant or
nursing their infants are also arbitrarily seized. Men often flee from
their villages or sleep outside their homes for fear of being taken as
porters, and the military seizes anyone who remains, including women. As a
result, in the past three years women have been seized much more
frequently to act as porters, and are subject to the same human rights
violations as men. However in addition o beatings and poor conditions,
women are at risk of rape by troops during their detention as porters. 
Women undergo the worst treatment
	In 1955, Burma ratified ILO Convention No.29 Concerning Forced or
Compulsory Labor (1930) but such conditions of unpaid labor are contrary
to it. The SLORC continues to insist, in the face of all evidence to the
contrary. Lt.  Gen. Khin Nyunt, secretary-1 of the SLORC, in a speech to
members of Burm's foreign service in April 1994, claimed that "Voluntary
labor" is done willingly by the Burmese people as a "noble act of charity"
and that the Burmese attitude was different from that in the West, where
"labor without wage is looked upon as an act involving loss of human
rights." (New Light of Myanmar) But all the ex-laborers told they have
worked without their consent. It is contrary with the Article 2.1 of ILO
Convention No.29. InArticle 2.1, Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor
(1930) states "...the term "forced or compulsory labor" shall mean all
work or service which is exacted from any person under the menance of any
penalty an for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily." 
	While the Convention excludes from this definition compulsory
military service, normal civic obligations, work by convicted prisoners
under the control of a public authority, work in the event of an emergency
and minor communal service (Article 2.2), it also imposes restrictions. 
	Further more Article 11 explicitly restricted such labor duties to
"able-bodied males between the ages of 18 and 45 and whose absence will
not affect the maintenance of normal family life in the community."
Tragically, the evidence is overwhelming that every article has been
routinely broken in both spirit and practice in Burma in the past four
decades. Many aged women, mothers with infants and pregnant women are
forced to work in the foced labor camps organized by SLORC in Burma. 
	The military units have distributed written commands to hundreds
of villages in war-zones in Karen, Mon, Karenni, Shan, Kachin and Araken
state where ethnic armed struggles are going on.  These commands order the
local civilian to relocate, to inform on ethnic supporters, to supply
unpaid laborers and to provide troops with material.  Many were stamped
"Comply Without Fail." Such threat is contrary to the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) which gurantee the rights to life as the most
fundamental of all human rights, Articl 6(1) of the ICCPR, which Burma is
yet to ratify, reads: 
	"Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall
be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life." 
	the practice of compulsory relocations is totally contrary to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 of which states: 
	"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person" 
This is back up by Article 12 which gurantees: 
	"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his
privacy, family, home or correspondence.."  Article 17 (2) adds: 
	"no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property." 
	These relocation actions are also contrary to Artile 16 of the
International Labor Organization's Convention which stresses the
importance of the right to fair representation and consultation in such
	"Such relocation shall take place only with their free and informed
consent.  Where their consent cannot be obtained, such relocation shall
take place only following appropriate procedures established by national
laws and regulations, including public inquiries where appropriate, which
provide the opportunity for effective representation of the people's
concerned." There is no such process of consultation in Burma today. 
Women who are traditionally accepted as responsible person for taking care
of family and its welfare are the ones who directly suffer the
consequences these forced relocation operations. 
	Half a century ago, rape in war was outlawed by the Geneva
Conventions which state: " Women shall be especially protected....against
rape, enforced prosttution, or any form of indecent assault.". Rape may be
outlawed under the international rules Governing conflicts but Burmese
women are being raped. Burmese and ethnic women have been raped in their
homes or in their villages by army soldiers sometimes before their husband
or their family. Women porters or hostages have been raped by soldiers in
the frontier areas or in the military bases. Local women have been raped
during their time at the "development projects" or working places. 
	In Burma, the pursuit of liberty for women from oppression and of
women's rights in general is inextricably intertwined with the ongoing
struggle for liberation of the whole population from the SLORC's iron fist
and for restoration of democracy and human rights. Women equally have to
struggle to achieve the fundamental rights of free expression, association
and security of life denied also to their menfolk in Burma. Without
respect for fundamental human rights, women's rights to peace, equality
and development- are unattainable.
	Unless the democrtic government is formed, Burmese people
including women could not extercise their basic human rights or contribute
to the betterment of society.  Slorc first need to hand over the power to
the democratically elected government. The democratic government is not
only obliged not to violate women's human rights; they are obliged to
promote and protect those rights.  Also government must ratify the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as
well as the international Covenant on Civiland Political Rights. (ICCPR)
	To uphold the women rights and the role of women in Burma, Slorc
should - recognize that women's human rights are universal and
indivisible.  - take step to ratify international legal instruments which
provide for the protection of the human rights of women and girls, such
	- the International Covention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
and its two
	  Optional Protocols.  (1976)
	- The International Covention on Economic, Social and Culture
Rights. (1976)
	- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or
	  Treatment or Punishment. (1987)
	- The Covention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
	  Women (1981) - abide by all the international conventions on human
rights which is has ratified.  - immediately halt the inhumane practices
involved in forced labor, including forced portering , and abide by the
ILO Convention to which it is a signatory.  - immediately halt the
"four-cut" operation and other repisals against the civilian population in
areas where armed opposition groups are believed to be active.  - respect
the right of all citizens to make a living on their own land and stop all
land appropriations and forcible relocations.  - take steps to prevent
abuses against women by their soldiers such as hostage-taking, torture,
including rape, ill-treatment, and arbitrary and deliberate killings, and
to hold those responsible for such abuses to account.  - release all
prisoners held because of their sex, peaceful political beliefs or
activities, ethnic origin, language and religion.  - No women shouldbe
detained or imprisoned for peaceful attempting to exercise basic rights
and freedoms enjoyed by men.  - publicly state their commitment to
ensuring that the intergovernmental bodies which monitor violations of
human rights suffered by women, including the UN Commission on Human
Rights and its special Rapporteur on violence against women, the UN
Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), have adequate resources to carry out
their task effectively.  - guarantee that women activists and
non-government organization working peacfully for the promotion and
protection of women's human rights enjoy all rights set out in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ICCPR.  - ensure that all
law-enforcement personel and other goernmental agents receive adequate
training on national and international standards which protect the human
rights of all women and how to enforced them properly.  - A special
emphasis should be given to education designed to make women aware of
their rights and to make society atlarge conscious of its duty to respect
the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls. These
education into the human rights of women and girls should be intgrated
into all education and training policies at both national and
international levels.  - promote and initiate the sufficient vocational
training and other rehabilitation programs for the women who have escaped
from the sex trade.  - give high priority in development assistance
projects for the implementation of human rights, particularly as they
affect women and girls.  


Documentation and Research Centre 
All Burma Students' Democratic Front 
July 31, 1995