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Global Justice Center Blog

The US Campaign to Deny Healthcare to War Victims

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The Biden administration has repeatedly asserted itself as a champion of sexual and reproductive rights abroad (albeit without ever having said the word abortion), and yet it continues to impose draconian anti-abortion policies which deny access to abortion to pregnant people around the world without exception. As the largest global health funder in the world, these restrictions have an enormous impact on global health providers. This impact is no more destructive than in conflict zones, where local clinics and providers are routinely forced to turn away victims of war rape seeking abortion care, leaving these pregnant victims with no alternative other than to seek out unsafe alternatives.

Over the past decade, policymakers, advocates and medical providers have sought to change these policies, and ensure that pregnant people are able to access safe abortion care as they are entitled to under international law. In parallel, journalists and others have worked to tell the stories of those whose lives have been impacted by these policies and expose the sweeping brutality of the United States’ actions on abortion access around the world.

Participants:

  • Patrick Adams, Journalist (Host)
  • Jill Filipovic, Attorney and Author
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Tamara Fetters, Senior Researcher, Ipas
  • Melissa Upreti, Chair, UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls

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UNHRC Side Event on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

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In many conflicts around the world today, civilians and non-combatants alike continue to suffer at the hands of parties to armed conflict. The ongoing, persistent, and widespread use of sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflicts as a tactic of war is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. It is an incontrovertible truth that women and girls are disproportionately affected by sexual and gender-based violence. This is especially true for those who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and who are from marginalized groups such as refugees and migrants, internally displaced persons, indigenous women, and persons living with disabilities. Governments, international organisations, and civil society must stand in solidarity with survivors not just in words, but also through actions by actively defending their human rights and agency. As part of these efforts, Canada is organising a roundtable on the theme of “Promoting Credible, Ethical, and Transparent Information-Sharing by Human Rights Defenders to Support Justice for Victims and Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV).” This side event will take place on the margins of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 47th Regular Session.

Participants:

  • Abid Shamdeen, ExecutiveDirector, Nadia’s Initiative
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center
  • Jina Moore, Editor In Chief, Guernica Magazine
  • Yared Hailemariam, Director, Ethiopian Human Rights Defender Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Present Demands to International Community

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Grassroots women’s rights activists from Burma/Myanmar spoke for a press briefing on the military coup and its disproportionate impact on women. Occurring less than a week after UN Security Council and UN General Assembly action on the crisis in Burma/Myanmar, the briefing presented demands for the international community from the women of Burma, who have been a central target of military violence for decades.

The briefing featured activists with the Women’s League of Burma, Karenni National Women’s Organization, and Kachin Women’s Association Thailand. In the months since the February 1 military coup, these organizations have regularly challenged international bodies like ASEAN to center the challenges and demands of women in Myanmar.

Participants:

  • Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary, Women’s League of Burma
  • Moon Nay Li, Advocacy and Information Officer, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  • Representative (unnamed for security purposes), Karenni National Women’s Organization
  • Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development
  • (Moderator) Grant Shubin, Legal Director, Global Justice Center

Press Conference: Women Leaders of Burma/Myanmar Disappointed with International Community

At a virtual press conference held today, women of Burma/Myanmar demanded greater accountability from ASEAN and the international community in their response to the recent military coup in the country. Since the coup, the armed and security forces have waged systemic gender-based violence and sexual violence against women, especially within the ethnic community. 

Naw Hser Hser, General Secretary of Women’s League of Burma (WLB) said, “Women Human Rights Defenders are being actively targeted by the military regime. There are chilling reports of female detainees being subjected to harrowing sexual assault, torture, physical and verbal abuse, and intimidation. The military’s use of rape as a weapon of war and sexual violence is a tool to demoralize and destroy ethnic communities. Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern. “

Several documented cases recently have shown large-scale violence against women including forcing them to exchange sex for removing their names from the warrant list, sexual assault in custody, and other forms of sexual and verbal abuse. There are also growing attacks on women human rights defenders for leading the resistance against Myanmar's military. At least 895 women have been detained so far and 56 confirmed cases of women and girls being killed, though the numbers could be higher.

“One-third of the Karenni population in Karenni State has been forced to flee their villages due to fighting between Burmese army and people resistance groups. Displaced women and children are at increased risk of being victims of human rights violations. We demand the international community to take immediate actions against the military, and provide access to humanitarian aid for the IDPs, in partnership with local ethnic service providers”, said a representative from Karenni National Women’s Organisation.

Moon Nay Li,  Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) shared, “The military coup is having the deepest impact on those who are already marginalized due to the decades of civil war and ongoing human rights violations committed  Burmese military. Humanitarian aid must be closely monitored to ensure that it benefits the conflict-affected ethnic communities and not the military. At the same time, they need to make sure that all women and girls get access to health, legal, and social services.”

On 18 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on Burma/Myanmar with no participation from women leaders or activists on the ground or women’s rights organizations from the country. The resolution also saw a split vote from ASEAN nations with at least four countries abstaining from voting.

“The failure of regional processes like ASEAN in holding the military regime accountable in Burma has been extremely disappointing. Women have historically led the resistance on the ground and hold the key to restoring peace and justice in the country. Absence of their voices and leadership in UN processes will only lead to the repetition of injustice and failure of the international community in fulfilling the purposes of the UN Charter ”, said Misun Woo, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD).

“It is long overdue for the international community to move statements of concern and take real action. Burma’s military is notorious for grave human rights violations, most notably using sexual and gender-based violence as a tool of oppression, and its operations since the coup are no exception. The current crisis was born out of the military’s complete impunity for international crimes, and accountability for ongoing and past abuses must be part of the solution”, said Grant Shubin, Global Justice Center.

For more than seven decades, the military has waged war in several ethnic states of Burma/Myanmar. It is time to hold the military regime accountable by the international community and refer it to the International Criminal Court for these mass atrocities. Ensuring women’s voices, leadership and meaningful participation in all UN processes is the only way the international community can fulfil its obligation to the people of Burma/Myanmar.