Global Justice Center Blog
Michelle Bachelet: A Beacon of Hope for Gender Parity in Conflict Resolution and Human Rights Development
By Sofia Garcia
“Wherever there is conflict, women must be part of the solution,” said Michelle Bachelet in 2012 as the head of UN Women. As of this September, she now holds the highest office in the human rights sphere as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, working to protect and promote human rights on an international level. The need for women in positions of power, particularly in peacemaking, conflict resolution, and human rights protection, is no less imperative now than it was six years ago in 2012. Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, human rights advocate, torture survivor, and supporter of gender equality, is a testament to the positive impact that women have when given the opportunity to have a seat at the table.
Throughout her tenure as president of Chile, she continuously advocated for marginalized communities. During her first presidential term, she promulgated legislation that resulted in the creation of the National Institute for Human Rights in Chile, a decision that was ahead of its time in Latin America in 2009. In 2010, she inaugurated a Memory Museum in order to commemorate the victims of Augusto Pinochet’s murderous regime. These decisions highlight Bachelet’s commitment to recognizing historical tragedies without erasing them, and using history as a lesson and opportunity to memorialize the victims of atrocity. When women like Michelle Bachelet hold positions of power, they are able to advocate for marginalized communities and give a voice to those that have been systematically silenced.
Rohingya women and girls have suffered targeted atrocities at the hands of Burma’s security forces. Amounting to crimes against humanity and genocide, these attacks were gendered in their conception, commission, and consequences. Accordingly, gender must be central to any and all efforts aimed at justice and accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya.
For an in-depth analysis of the sexual and gender-based crimes perpetrated by Burma’s security forces against Rohingya women and girls, see the Global Justice Center’s (GJC) legal brief: Discrimination to Destruction: A Legal Analysis of the Gender Crimes Against the Rohingya.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 17, 2018
[New York] – The Global Justice Center (GJC) released a report today providing the first comprehensive legal analysis of the gender-based crimes committed against Rohingya women and girls in Rakhine State, amounting to crimes against humanity and genocide.
Too often, the female victims of atrocity crimes are overlooked, their experiences lost in a narrative of violence centered around mass killings. This report highlights the central role that gender played in the design and commission of the atrocities carried out against the Rohingya. The Burmese military has a long history of using rape as a weapon against ethnic minorities, and the assault on the Rohingya was no exception—women and girls were systematically singled out for brutal rape and sexual violence. As one survivor testified, “I was lucky I was only raped by three men.” Accountability proceedings—whether at the domestic or international level—must take into account these gendered experiences.
Since August 2016, the Burmese military (Tatmadaw), Border Guard, and police forces have conducted a systematic campaign of brutal violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s northern Rakhine State. These attacks come in the midst of a decades-long campaign of persecution of the Rohingya through discriminatory measures to police and control the group, including denying citizenship rights, restricting movement and access to healthcare, and limiting marriage and the number of children in families. While all members of the Rohingya population were targeted for violence, gender was integral to how the atrocities were perpetrated.
This brief seeks to bring to light the international crimes—crimes against humanity and genocide—committed against Rohingya women and girls since 2016 by Burmese Security Forces and highlight the role gender played in the design and commission of these atrocities. The military has long used rape as a weapon of war and oppression in its conflicts with ethnic groups, and in the recent attacks, Rohingya women and girls were targeted for particularly brutal manners of killing, rape and sexual violence, and torture.