“We must work in all areas to get rid of this dictatorship that even uses sexual assault as a weapon to undermine its own reputation.” – Thwe Zin Toe (BWU)


An interview with Thwe Zin Toe, head of News and Archives at Burmese Women’s Union (BWU)

Since the military coup, a total of 3,390 women have been detained as of April 2023. Of these women, 819 were wrongfully convicted by the military council. Among them are some underage girls, according to data compiled by the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU). The BWU, which advocates for women’s rights and against patriarchy by exposing women’s voices and situations, says the number of democracy activists who are unjustly imprisoned is gradually increasing.

In this interview with Karen Information Center, Thwe Zin Toe, head of the News and Archives at BWU, spoke about her views on the charges that are mainly brought against women, as well as charges and convictions of underage girls.

Q: On what charges are most of the more than 3,000 women unjustly detained by the junta being held?

A: In the first days, most of them were arrested because of their participation in the protests. This includes those who were arrested for their participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) or for their support of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and the National Unity Government (NUG). In the later days, some of them were arrested for either posting satirical writings against the military regime and people or groups associated with it on social media (Facebook) or changing their Facebook profile pictures to mourn the victims of the junta’s violence. Some were arrested after their names were posted on Telegram channels by pro-military lobbyists.

Q: Please let us know if the BWU has any personal accounts on the challenges women faced after being released from detention?

A: We don’t have exclusive personal accounts, but the biggest challenge for them is the trauma they experienced after being released from detention because they were subjected to various forms of physical torture. Those who were detained and had no contact with the outside world may have difficulty adjusting to conditions on the outside when they’re released. The worst is when they’re sexually assaulted during interrogation, and it can take decades for them to recover from these traumas.

Q: Can women released from captivity have a need for psychological therapy?

A: They need a lot of it. They say military interrogations are like a human hell. They need therapy after suffering serious abuses in prisons. They need a lot of time to recover from such traumas.

Q: Among those sentenced by the military council are underage girls. What is the BWU’s opinion on this?

A: The military’s action of sentencing underage girls is totally unacceptable. We must work in all areas to get rid of this dictatorship that even uses sexual assault as a weapon to undermine its own reputation.

Q: What is the security situation for women during the military coup?

A: The security of women during the coup is below zero. This fact has remained unchanged since the first days of the coup in February 2021. During this period, women were arrested for no apparent reason. They were taken as hostages. Some of them were sexually harassed at military checkpoints. Detained women have been deprived of food and water and physically assaulted. What’s worse, we no longer have a legal system to turn to even when we’re robbed. So there is no longer any guarantee for women’s safety.

Q: What challenges does the BWU face in advocating for women’s rights and against patriarchy?

A: Our organization is just like other civil society organizations. We have security challenges. Individuals in the organization face the same challenges as other women. In addition, the internet and telephone connections that are currently cut in the country limit the activities that we carry out.

Sent by KIC.


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