The International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women of Burma is taking place today, Tuesday, March 2 in New York City, and is being broadcast live online. The tribunal is jointly convened by the Women’s League of Burma and the Nobel Women’s Initiative. The tribunal features the testimonies from twelve Burmese women who suffered rape, torture, and other atrocious crimes in the hands of the Burmese military regime. Their stories represent thousands of similar, untold stories of women from all across Burma who are victims of rape, torture, and other despicable violations of basic human rights.
International, regional and national leaders consider this tribunal an opening chapter for a meaningful change towards ending impunity in Burma. Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams are serving as panel judges, offering policy recommendations based on the testimonies and calling on the international community to take drastic action about the human rights crisis in Burma.
In the first testimonies today, four women described being brutally raped and then “being blamed for what happened to them by their school, doctors, the judiciary, their community and even by the perpetrators.” Rape against women is more than a terror tactic of modern conflicts; one of the testifiers described rape committed against women as”tortures of silence” and “tortures of shame.”
Just a few days ago, Karen Women’s Organization released a report titled “Walking Amongst Sharp Knives” . The report documents and describes a number of cases of brutal torture, rape, and murder committed by the Burmese military against many women in the leadership positions in the Karen ethnic community. Many of the accounts of rape, torture and forced labor documented in this report by KWO combined with the testimonies from this international tribunal have one thing in common – systematic and widespread gender-based violence against a targeted group of people.
How many more voices of hurt do we need to hear before drastic action can be taken to address the issue and resolve it? How many more lives must be broken in order to put things right? It is time to let justice roll on like a never-failing stream. Perpetrators of such heinous crimes must be held accountable.