Burmese Women Suffer Systematic Rapes From Military
A new report reveals that Burma's army has been using rape as a weapon of war against ethnic women. The Washington-based Refugees International (RI) documented 43 rapes of women from the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Tavoyan and Shan ethnic groups. The US State Department found the report "appalling" and credible, according to the New York Times. Veronika Martin, one of the authors of the RI study No Safe Place: Burma's Army and the Rape of Ethnic Women, told the Times that "Women are raped during forced labor assignments, they are raped while farming, they are raped in their own homes and raped also when they are trying to flee to Thailand." The report found that almost one-third of the rapes were committed by higher-ranking officials, and in only two cases did the perpetrator receive even a minimum punishment.
The Burmese government has rejected the report and accused the US government of rehashing discredited allegations to attack it. But the State Department has said that its consulate in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai had found evidence supporting the accusations, according to Agence France Presse. The State Department conduced its own interviews in three locations in December to confirm the allegations. Its investigators talked to 12 women who said they had been gang raped by Burmese soldiers during the past five years.
The State Department reported that "all of the victims under 15 appeared severely traumatized by their experiences, were disturbed mentally and spoke in whispers, if at all ... "The older women sobbed violently as they recalled horrific incidents of their own rapes as well as inhumane rapes, torture and execution of family members."
Refugees International has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to condemn rape and violence against ethnic women by the Burmese military and to insist that Thailand provide a safe haven for women fleeing rape and sexual violence in Burma.
Media Resources: RI report, press release 4/3/03; New York Times 5/12/03; Agence France Presse 4/4/03, 4/6/03 BBC News 4/8/03
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .