ARTICLE 19 launches its report Women in Myanmar today. Women have inspired political leadership, reported fearlessly on current events and played a leading role in civil society in the country. As a result, however, they have faced a multitude of legal and policy restrictions and arbitrary punishments.
Women experience these restrictions, punishments and their effects differently to men. For men, these restrictions and punishments tend to come from the government, whereas for women they are reinforced and exacerbated by society in the form of gender-based discrimination and gender-based violence. As a result, women and other gender-minorities often experience restrictions and punishments more acutely than men.
This report sets out to answer several initial questions. How does the right to freedom of expression and information apply to women in Myanmar? How are women represented in the media? What information necessary for women is not easily available? Why are women’s voices not heard at the highest levels of decision making? What gender-based violence do women experience as a result of what they say?
It comes to a number of conclusions, including:
- Women journalists generally have more junior or gender-related roles than men.
- Women journalists have no gender-based support or voice within the media sector.
- Women journalists are ‘protected’ rather than empowered.
- Gender-based stereotyping is rife across the media, particularly in broadcasting.
- The government does not prioritise the provision of access to information for women.
- Women’s access to gender-specific information is hindered by cultural barriers.
- Women’s voices are excluded from decision making.
- Women included in decision making are selectively chosen by government.
- Women’s gender and sexual identity are used to exclude them from civic space.
- Women in Myanmar experience expression-related violence and its effects differently.
- The current remedies and protective measures that exist to protect women from violence actually make it worse.
Understanding these issues has led to the following targeted recommendations. Most of them would benefit not only women but other people in Myanmar, too. In addition, some of them are already part of Myanmar’s little known National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women adopted by the government in 2013.
Recommendations to the government and parliament
Develop new laws in consultation with civil society organisations including gender-focused ones and in accordance with international standards:
- An access to information law.
- A broadcasting law and public service media law. This legislation should include a requirement for the principles of diversity and pluralism to be considered as part of the licensing of channels. The principle of diversity should be explained in the law as meaning that all gender and other minorities should be represented in programmes and should participate in decision making bodies, both of public and private channels.
- An anti-discrimination law, which must explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of “tradition” or “culture” by state and non-state actors.
- A law to address gender-based violence, to be followed by the implementation of appropriate regulations and properly funded programmes that clearly set out that – and how – all parts of the public administration should swiftly apply them.
Make amendments to current laws:
- Publicly commit to the need to challenge gender-based discrimination and reform all customs and laws that civil society identifies as either de jure or de facto furthering such discrimination.
- Amend the Constitution, including Articles 109(b) and 141(b) which grant parliamentary seats to the military, and Article 352 which limits anti-discrimination provisions.
- Amend the Association Registration Law to ensure that women and people with lower literacy levels are able to organise and create associations.
- Amend the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, establishing a clear procedure for voluntary notifications and prohibiting the requirement for permission to assemble.
- Amend the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Law to bring it into accordance with the Paris Principles; ensuring Article 7(c) explicitly defines the minimum number of women necessary in the Commission.