In Myanmar, 'rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression,' women's group claims
28 women and girls have died as the result of sexual assaults
The Women's League of Burma, based in Thailand says that the Myanmar military continues to use rape as a weapon of war. The group says that more than 100 women and girls have been raped by the army since the 2010 election - which ostensibly brought a civilian government that has made overtures to the West.
In a report conducted by the group, 47 of the cases documented were gang rapes and 28 of the women were either killed or had died as a result of their injuries. Some victims were as young as eight ears old.
There is a pressing need for legal reform in Myanmar, which formerly was known as Burma, and for changes to a 2008 constitution to ensure that the military is placed under civilian control.
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Myanmar's government denies these charges, saying "It's not the policy of our Tatmadaw (military) to use rapes as weapons," presidential spokesman Ye Htut says.
"If there are rape cases committed by individual members, we try to expose them and take effective action against the offenders. It would be very helpful in taking action against the offenders if those who prepared that report could send us the details of the cases," he said.
Prominent U.S. senators, including Bob Menendez, Marco Rubio Ben Cardin and Bob Corker have since introduced a bill saying that no funds should be made available the Myanmar government until there is there is much-needed reform and human rights abuses are addressed.
The bill also calls on the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department to present a report on U.S. strategy for military-to-military ties with Myanmar, including an assessment of the Myanmar military's rights record and the link between a deepening of such ties and reform.
Most of the rape cases in Myanmar that the group, along with it its member organizations had documented were linked to offensives by the Myanmar military in the northeast of the country against ethnic minority Kachin and Shan insurgents.
The Kachin Women's Association Thailand has documented at least 59 cases of sexual violence by Myanmar government soldiers over the past three years. The Shan Women's Action Network reported another 30 cases involving 35 women and girls.
These attacks were more than random isolated acts by rogue soldiers, the groups claim. "Their widespread and systematic nature indicates a structural pattern: rape is still used as an instrument of war and oppression."
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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