The Nobel Women’s Initiative and the Women’s League for Burma organized the quasi-legal International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma this week, to raise awareness of how that country’s military regime uses systematic violence against women to maintain its grip on power. In addition to the unprecedented event, the group visited the United Nations to push for legal accountability for the country’s ruling junta. Campaigners want to see the military rulers brought before the International Criminal Court to face charges of crimes against humanity.
“Your searing testimonies of unimaginable brutalities, including sexual violence, break the silence on behalf of thousands upon thousands of Burmese women. You all cry out for justice but have been met with impunity,” Nobel laureate Jody Williams said of the tribunal witnesses at a press conference, according to Reuters.
Burma — or Myanmar, as it has been renamed by the ruling military junta — is widely perceived to have one of the world’s worst human rights records. The country’s ruling junta is a constant target for criticism from rights advocates across the globe, diplomats and the U.N.
Yet even though the country draws a lot of scrutiny and is home to one of the world’s most famous dissidents — political leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi — the amount of concrete knowledge about what is happening inside the country is limited. Poverty, lack of access and tight media control limit the flow of information coming out of the country, and outside investigation or oversight are rarely allowed. The ruling junta appears habitually unperturbed by international pressure, and has only made some minor adjustments recently as part of its controversial reform process.
This week’s event featured public testimony from 12 Burmese women on crimes committed against them by the country’s rulers, to provide evidence on the systematic use of violence against women.
“We live in a globalized world, which means that Burma cannot do whatever it wants to its people within its own walls. Globalization is effective when it helps bring an end to injustice. The international community cannot stand by and let other countries to use their sovereignty to commit atrocities against their own people,” 2003 Nobel peace prize winner and NWI co-founder Shirin Ebadi said in a press release.
The NWI — created by Nobel laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Maguireas — is a forum through which women’s rights advocates can push for equality and justice.