Burmese women testify at the UN

Twelve Burmese women have spoken about human rights violations they suffered whilst in the country at an International Tribunal on Crimes Against the Women of Burma at the UN building in New York on Tuesday.

Khin San Nwe, one of the women told DVB what she testified to the panel: “I was five months pregnant when I was in Insein prison. I gave birth to by child in that prison. I didn’t receive any medical assistance before the birth and also was not allowed to deliver my child at a hospital.”

The tribunal, a ‘quasi legal’ event was initiated by women Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams – along with human rights experts Dr. Heisoo Shin from Korea and Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand.

The tribunal’s aim was to “spotlight the oppression of women of Burma in order to encourage policymakers and political leaders to take specific action now”.

“Now I can no longer have a child.” added Khin San Nwe, “I was even lucky to be alive. I witnessed some other women in the prison, including Ma Tin Tin Htwe, died with similar incidents.”

“All the women prisoners are losing their rights to medical assistance, health care and their dignity and honour. Women inmates are only given a pair of prison uniform so they have to wait naked for their uniform to get dry after doing laundry.”

“This is a total violation against a woman’s dignity. No matter how a person ends up in prison; whether from criminal or political activity, she should still be granted her right to life and security.”

“Woman inmates are often taken for interrogation when an incident like bombing occurs outside the prison. Sometimes they are taken out of the prison by the police’s Special Investigation Branch and Criminal Investigation Department with no female official accompanying.”

“The women are violated verbally and physically. The investigation departments would continue to harass a woman even after she is released from the prison. A woman named Ma Tin Tin Nyo, after much harassment turned into a ‘tom boy’ and she eventually committed suicide.”

Orgnaiser Jody Williams, quoted on the Nobel Women’s initiative web site said of the event that; “Women should no longer be invisible when crimes are committed against them with impunity.”

“The history of violence and oppression of women in Burma is long and sordid–and must come to an end.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Allchin