Human rights organizations in Burma are expressing their disappointment after eight ethnic Chin activists were found guilty of unlawful assembly after protesting sexual violence in Chin State, in Western Burma. The verdict, delivered on July 28, ordered that the activists pay a fine of 30,000 kyat (US$30) or serve one-month prison sentences.
The women’s rights activists were arrested June 25 following peaceful protests in the towns of Razua and Matupi on June 23 and June 24. The demonstrations were in response to the alleged attempted rape of a 55-year-old woman by a Burmese soldier on June 10. The soldier was arrested but women’s groups feared that charges would be dropped when the Military Commander offered the woman’s husband 100,000 kyat (US $100) and 15 packages of noodles as “compensation” for the crime.
Despite attempts by the women’s groups to consult authorities about the demonstrations, police would not grant permission. Eight activists –members of the Razua Women’s group, Matupi Women’s Association and the Matupi Youth Association, were charged with unlawful assembly under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly act.
The government of Burma has been criticized for its lack of action concerning a high number of cases of rape and sexual violence by the military. This sentencing of activists protesting sexual violence follows Burma becoming the 150th country to sign the United Nations Declaration to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the country’s attendance at last month’s Global Summit in London.
In a statement released by the Razua Women’s Group following the arrests, the group criticized the targeting of grassroots activists and calls for an end to sexual violence against ethnic women in Burma. “We…strongly urge the government authorities to immediately stop harassing our community leaders and drop all charges against them. We also repeat our calls for justice in the recent case of attempted rape, and for an end to all military sexual violence against ethnic women.”