This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.
Patriarchy is a system entrenched in the roots of societies since hundreds of years ago. While we can still see the prominent post-colonial dominance of patriarchy in the social hierarchy perceptibly suppressing the capability of women in the workplace, the world is currently trying to bridge the gulf between men and women. Research has shown that women are making progress on keeping abreast with men in leadership positions. However, one facet remains threatening to women in their social life, which is none other than violence against women.
Among all forms of violence against women, domestic violence has significantly intensified since the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the World Health Organisation (2021), around 30% of women worldwide are subjected to physical or sexual violence. Physical abuse by their intimate partner can make women very susceptible to detrimental impact on their physical and mental well-being and their potential to thrive in their careers. Moreover, women, especially racially and ethnically marginalised women, migrants, and undocumented workers are more subjected to sexual violence such as rape, sexual trafficking, and all forms of sexual exploitation, compounded by discrimination and socio-economic exclusion directed towards them (UN Women, 2010).
This is particularly true in India where law enforcement against sexual violence is more orientated towards the patriarchal system, rendering women more vulnerable to sexual violence (Equality Now, 2020). The survivors of sexual violence are often blamed for their victimisation by society, resulting in a terrible social stigma attached to these women. Therefore, many cases are silenced, opening up the chance for the perpetrators to commit more crimes against women. Moreover, Indian law treats women as the property of their husbands, effectively paving the way for domestic abuse and marital rape (Equality Now, 2020). Hence, it is essential to provide the victims with adequate safety, protection, and mental support to ensure that they can move on in their life without the terror lurking around and tormenting them. Most importantly, this is an imperative matter that needs institutional changes. Therefore, social campaigns should be spearheaded to get the government to enforce laws strong enough to protect women and to ensure that all perpetrators pay for their crimes.
Another social barrier for women is the prominence of forced or child marriage. For example, there is no law enforcement on child marriage in Myanmar. Females in rural areas are often married between the ages of 14 and 17 with their marriage officiated by their parents and local community members and any attempt to divorce would not be valid without the recognition of the local community (Tahirih, 2021). Women in certain areas are forced to marry military personnel, as pressured by their families and social communities in fear of reprisals from the military if they turn down the proposal. Moreover, the Tahirih Justice Centre (2021) states that there are numerous cases in which Burmese military soldiers committed sexual assaults on ethnic women in rural areas but such cases were rarely investigated. Therefore, there is a case for basic and radical change in the institutional system. It is imperative to curb child marriages by enforcing the law and bringing quality education to women in marginalised areas to maximise their potential so that they can strive to disrupt patriarchy and attain equal rights and entitlements as men. This writer argues that it is patently clear that women’s lives are put in peril in Myanmar under the reign of military dictatorship. Hence, this writer opines that eradicating the military dictatorship would be of enormous aid in helping Burmese women achieve the rights that they fully deserve.
In addition to these problems concerning violence that confront women, there is also social scepticism against women’s capability compared to that of men, especially in male-dominated fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). As there are limits constraining women from going into these areas, other sectors with lower income such as healthcare become packed with women instead. It has been reported that 77% of frontline healthcare workers are women who are put at risk of contact with patients with viruses (Gooch, 2021). The sheer imbalance in career opportunities between men and women is undoubtedly squelching women’s potential to compete on a level playing field with men. Therefore, considering all these factors, a change in cultural norms and basic institutional structures is necessary. Of course, eradication of violence against women is the most important goal. The whole world needs to make a concerted effort to embrace women’s capability and maximise their chances to contribute to the world alongside men. Only through this way can we enjoy the shimmering future filled with promising possibilities of balance, equality, and sustainability.
This article was written by Moe Aye Aye Myint, edited by Lutfil Hadi Azmi, and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse. The AASYP Horizons Blog empathises and is in solidarity with the citizens of Myanmar.
1. World Health Organisation (WHO) (2021). Violence against women. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women.
2. UN Women (2010). Forms of violence against women. Retrieved from https://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/296-forms-of-violence-against-women-.html# :~:text=The%20most%20universally%20common%20forms,respective%20countries %20and%20areas%20affected.
3. Equality Now (2020). Sexual violence in India. Retrieved from https://www.equalitynow.org/learn_more_sexual_violence_in_india#:~:text=Sexual% 20violence%20is%20a%20major,women%20and%20girls%20in%20India.&text=Acc ording%20to%20official%20crime%20data,and%20girls%20(Scheduled%20Tribes).
4. Tahirih Justice Center (2021). Forced marriage overseas: Burma. Force marriage initiative. Retrieved from https://preventforcedmarriage.org/forced-marriage-overseas-burma/.
5. Gooch. K (2021). 77% of front-line health and long-term care workers women: 6 report findings. Becker’s Hospital Review. Retrieved from https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/workforce/77-of-front-line-health-and-long-term-care-workers-are-women-6-report-findings.html.