KWO’s reports bring to light the impunity that perpetrators of human rights abuses evade through corrupt justice systems. We aspire to give women a voice, and a chance for their experiences to be recognised.
Released in September 2020, KWO’s two-year report, Solidarity in Times of Uncertainty, highlights our achievements and in 2018 and 2019. We are grateful to the many who continue to make our work possible. Despite the many challenges that compromise our efforts for peace in Burma’s current socio-political environment, we remain committed to our mission and serving our communities.
Our two-year report is a testament to what is possible even in the most difficult of times. We are immensely grateful to our members, networks, friends and donors that grant us the opportunity through funding, time and resources to continue this work.
In May 2020, KWO produced a short report on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it was impacting our communities. As KWO received the new rules and regulations, we reviewed our work plans for our projects and activities. In these difficult circumstances, like many other organisations, we had to postpone or cancel planned activities which involved large groups of people, like training or special events. This has impacted our daily work. However, with the capacity and resources that we had available, we continued to work hard within the new limitations, to meet many of our target goals and objectives.
On International Women’s Day, KWO released a report called, ‘Kill Me Instead of Them,’ based on the testimony of 109 Karen women village chiefs who served during the decades of heavy ﬁghting before the 2012 ceaseﬁre between the Karen National Union and the Burmese government. It describes their courage and strength in their leadership roles, despite the many different types of human rights violations they experienced.
Abuses suffered by the women village chiefs included the extrajudicial killing of friends, family, and relatives at the hands of the Burma Army. Some shared that they had been porters (forced to carry military supplies day and night by the Burma Army) and others had been subject to torture. During these difﬁ cult times, their situations were made worse when the military deprived them of food and water and a lack of access to clean facilities to wash and clean themselves. Across this report, women showed courage, determination, empathy, and bravery.
We launched Salt in the Wound on the 25th of November 2013, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the report is about SGBV cases in the refugee camps.
The report documents the results of research into the justice outcomes of 289 cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in the seven Karen-majority refugee camps located along the Thai-Burma border. The results of our research are staggering, and provide ample evidence for the need for change.
In the vast majority (80%) of all the SGBV cases in six of the seven camps, women received inadequate justice responses. Even in cases of sexual violence, including rape, we found that there were very weak responses by the judicial systems. The inadequate justice outcomes include perpetrators just signing an agreement to say that they won’t do it again (usually with no follow up to ensure that they don’t), or paying a small fine to the authorities (usually with zero compensation for the victim) or almost no action at all by authorities. This is not good enough for crimes of violence.
The practice of the Burmese Army to execute village heads has led to traditional Karen culture being turned upside-down, with women now being appointed village chiefs as they are seen as less likely to be killed. However, this change has put women in the frontline of human rights abuses. These abuses constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. The report can be downloaded through the link above.
In 2007 KWO issued the report, State of Terror on the ongoing rape, murder, torture and forced labour suffered by women living under the Burmese Military Regime in Karen State. “Tell us the truth otherwise we will cut open your stomach with this knife and take out your baby and all of your insides.” (Case 111). This report State of Terror clearly documents the range of human rights abuses that continue to be perpetrated across Karen State as part of the SPDC’s sustained campaign of terror. The report focuses in particular on the abuses experienced by women and girls and draws on over 40001 documented cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by the SPDC. These case studies provide shocking evidence of the entrenched and widespread abuses perpetrated against the civilian population of Karen State by the Burmese Military Regime.
Released in 2004, Shattering Silences clearly documents the widespread and systematic rape being committed by the Burmese military against Karen
women in Burma. Most of these incidents have been committed with impunity, creating a climate of fear for Karen women in Burma.
The cases reported demonstrate how rape is actively being used as a strategy by the SPDC2 military to intimidate, control, shame and ethnically cleanse Karen groups in Burma. Despite the current “ceasefire talks” between the SPDC and the Karen National Union (KNU), the SPDC has continued to perpetrate human rights violations against Karen people in Karen State. At the time of publication in April 2004, Karen women continue to be killed and raped by SPDC soldiers, forced to work as porters and forced from their homes.
KWO is an ethnic women’s community-based organization that empowers women so they have capacity and power to solve their own problems and participate in decision-making that will affect their lives.
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