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Censored gender: Women in Burma face harsher punishment for speaking out

In this March 2013 photo, villagers, led by women, protest against a copper mine project in front of Lapdaung hill
In this March 2013 photo, villagers, led by women, protest against a copper mine project in front of Lapdaung hill

REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 30 June 2015.

A new report published on 30 June 2015 finds that those women in Myanmar who speak out face harsher censorship and backlash from more sources than men.

“While censorship is already widespread in Myanmar, it is often worse for women as they not only face state barriers, but also cultural and social ones too., Many of these barriers remain either hidden or regarded as so normal that few think about them,” said Ye Htun Naung, ARTICLE 19 Myanmar Programme Manager.

“We found that broadcasters overwhelmingly stereotype Myanmar women as either mothers or weak, vulnerable and vain. We found that the information women need on sexual and reproductive health is denied to them because of 'culture'. We found that women's voices are almost entirely absent from politics. We found that the so-called 'protectors' of women are often in fact perpetrators, and 'protection' is often actually the control of their voices,” Ye Htun Naung added.

“We have a difficult road ahead to end censorship, build a strong media, get access to information, ensure our voices are heard in government, and protect those who speak out against powerful people. But while doing so, we need to ensure that we understand that different people experience these problems in different ways,” concluded Ye Htun Naung.

Women experience restrictions, punishments and their effects differently to men in Myanmar. The report, 'Censored gender' finds that for men, these restrictions and punishments tend to come from the government, whereas for women they are reinforced and exacerbated by society in the form of gender-based discrimination and gender-based violence. As a result, women and other gender-minorities often experience restrictions and punishments more acutely than men.

'Censored gender' finds that gender-based stereotyping is rife across the Myanmar media, particularly in broadcasting. It shows that the government are failing to provide women with adequate gender-specific information, such as on sexual and reproductive health.

The report finds that women's gender and sexual identity are used to exclude them from civic space and decision making, and those women that are included are often selectively chosen by the government.

Finally, 'Censored gender' identifies that women face different forms of violence and censorship, made more acute by cultural barriers. In addition, many remedies and protective measures that exist to protect women actually make the violence worse.

'Censored gender' is the result of six months research, including interviews, roundtables and legal studies by ARTICLE 19's Myanmar office into how people's experiences of censorship differs according to their gender.

In addition, some of them are already part of Myanmar's little known National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women adopted by the government in 2013.

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