Burmese women to block 2010 elections

Dec 10, 2009 (DVB), Burma's 2010 elections will prolong poverty and violence against women and should not be supported by the international community, an exiled Burmese women's rights group said.

Campaigns to block the elections will be carried out by the Women's League of Burma (WLB), which yesterday celebrated its 10-year anniversary, the group's general secretary, Lway Aye Nang, said.

"We cannot accept the government's 2008 basic constitution which didn't include any resolution on security and insurance for the women and was approved without the true will of the people," she said.

Critics of the Burmese government have argued that the constitution, which guarantees 25 percent of parliamentary seats to the army prior to polling, will entrench military rule.

Furthermore, given that women are largely excluded from the military in Burma, all of the power reserved for members of the military is automatically unavailable to women.

This denial of gender equality is in direct opposition to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Burma is a state party.

"Sexual harassments and violations against women are taking place in Burma and most of these are caused by the people planning the 2010 elections," she added.

The WLB comprises 12 Burmese women's groups, including the Burmese Women's Union (BWU) and Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN). The latter in 2002 released the landmark ‘License to Rape’ report, which documented the use of rape as a weapon of war by the Burmese military.

"If the elections went on successfully, the situation will get worse," Lway Aye Nang said. "We will raise awareness and convince the international community that the military leaders are criminals, and that it will still be them in civilian clothing after the 2010 elections."

Events to mark the umbrella organisation's anniversary were also held yesterday in Bangladesh and India.

Saw Mra Raza Linn, a member of the WLB board, said the group's marking of the event in Bangladesh's Cox’s Bazaar, close to the border with Burma, would include a discussion forum on opposing the 2010 elections.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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