How rape is being used as a weapon against women in Burma

How rape is being used as a weapon against women in Burma

You will want to click away from this news. It will be tempting to avert your eyes and find something else to read. Anything else. I know that will be the case and I understand because I feel the same way.

The horror outlined below is excruciating to contemplate, let alone endure, which is why we need to see it. The atrocities that have been carried out against women in Burma need our attention.

You might be aware that the Burmese military has been carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in the northern Rakhine State. People have been murdered in the thousands, villages have been destroyed in the hundreds and more than 600,000 citizens have fled to Bangladesh to escape.

You might not know that the military’s most feared weapon is mass sexual violence. Human Rights Watch researcher Skye Wheeler published a report last week that outlined the extent to which women have been brutally gang raped by soldiers as part of the massacres.

“Rape has been a prominent and devastating feature of the Burmese military’s campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Wheeler said. “The Burmese military’s barbaric acts of violence have left countless women and girls brutally harmed and traumatized.”

It is not the first time sexual violence has been used as a weapon in war.

Wheeler’s report says in Burma these rapes often followed weeks and months of sexual assault and harassment from military officers stationed in or near villages. The mass gang rapes then took place during attacks. Villages were surrounded, shots were fired, grenades were detonated, homes were burnt down, men were beaten and soldiers gathered groups of women to rape.

“Rape is obviously incredibly traumatizing. It’s a violation of someone’s most private sacred space and your basic sense of selfhood,” Skye Wheeler explains. “But it also affects women’s memories, and their sense of being safe at home. If this has been destroyed, it’s much harder for them ever to be able to return home. So it’s an effective method of ethnic cleansing, to remove – by violent and terror-inspiring means – a certain ethnic or religious group from an area.”

Wheeler is utterly disbelieving that 600,000 muslims have been displaced in the most traumatic of circumstances.

“Everyone that I met was really struggling, not just those who had been raped. It is 600,000 women, men, and children who have been unearthed and thrown into another country, and they don’t even know if they’re welcome to stay or not.”

Can you even imagine that despair?

You can donate to the Red Cross’ Myanmar Crisis Appeal, with all donations matched by the Australian Government until December 9. Women’s Agenda has made a small donation on behalf of readers, but we encourage more readers to contribute. 

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