Excerpt of Women's Media Center op-ed by GJC Legal Intern Courtney Vice.
Since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’état on February 1, garment worker union members across the country have stood at the forefront of protests and marches. Thanks to their activism, there is now a long overdue spotlight on their struggle, both as workers and as allies in the movement against the coup. Yet, they are not only fighting for an end to military dictatorship; they are also fighting for the elimination of systemic harassment and violence that has plagued their lives long before the coup.
Myanmar’s antiquated labor system has created a breeding ground for this abuse. International sanctions were dropped in 2016 as Myanmar moved toward democracy and started to set its own labor standards. After the removal of these sanctions, the garment industry boomed. Western brands seeking cheap labor flocked to the country, setting up numerous factories. In 2018, the garment industry accounted for 31 percent of all of Myanmar’s exports.