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Law enforcement capacity to address gender-based violence grows as UNODC delivers training across Myanmar for more than 1700 police officers

Yangon (Myanmar), 31 January 2020
- Between mid-October 2019 and the end of January 2020, UNODC coordinated a series of trainings on effective police responses to gender-based violence (GBV), reaching more than 1700 frontline police officers across each of Myanmar's states/regions. The orientation trainings, which were a joint initiative led by UNODC in collaboration with UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women, developed the ability of participating officers to respond effectively to incidents of GBV, as well as providing them tools to assist in the prevention of GBV before it occurs. Facilitators also worked to deepen officers' understanding of related concepts such as gender, and the connections between gender and corruption, child protection and human trafficking.

Facilitators made use of an interactive curriculum which focused on how concepts could be applied in Myanmar's unique context, as well as the specific situation in each state/region. Participating officers consistently engaged in discussions of how best to apply Myanmar law following cases of GBV, as well as how to respond in line with the Myanmar Police Handbook.

"The training made clear it's important for the police to show concern for victims," said Deputy Township Police Commander Min Thant Zaw in Myitkyina, Kachin State. "As the first responders to cases of gender-based violence, we have to show victims kindness and empathy. While I was already familiar with many of the guidelines discussed, learning how they applied specifically to cases of gender-based violence has clarified for me how they can be used in the field."

GBV is a pervasive issue in Myanmar, where one in ten women has experienced intimate partner violence within the past twelve months. Cultural traditions and taboos often limit conversations around violence against women and girls, and they remain systemically engrained in many communities across the country. Too often GBV continues to be seen as a private family matter.

Speaking at the opening in Yangon, UNODC Country Manager Troels Vester reiterated the importance of MPF Frontline officers in responding to GBV. "Gender-based violence is one of the most widespread crimes occurring in Myanmar today and one we know continues to be underreported. The proximity of frontline police officers to survivors of GBV means they are often their first point of contact with the criminal justice system and therefore we must ensure that all MPF officers treat cases of GBV seriously. Officers need to make clear to the communities they're working in that GBV is not a private family matter - it's a serious crime that the police should be called on to respond to."

Frontline police officers have a pivotal role to play in overcoming these challenges, as they are often the first responders following incidents of GBV. Their positioning is therefore critical to ensuring cases are reported, that survivors can access necessary services and that perpetrators of GBV are prosecuted in line with the law. Additionally, as figures of authority working closely with communities, the police have a significant role in facilitating conversation around GBV and in determining community attitudes about appropriate responses.

The GBV response trainings are part of an ongoing partnership between UNODC and the MPF to reduce incidence of GBV in Myanmar and to ensure perpetrators face justice more frequently. Since 2016, UNODC has worked with the MPF towards developing standard operating procedures for police following cases of GBV, creating Myanmar specific manuals, the implementation of a female officer recruitment and retention strategy, and have held a number of trainings to improve coordination between the MPF and other relevant actors including the Union Attorney General's Office (UAGO), health officials and civil society. This work is set to continue in 2020, notably through a planned series of advanced GBV response trainings with select groups of MPF officers.

The trainings are part of broader UNODC collaboration with criminal justice actors in Myanmar to strengthen responses to GBV through capacity building, technical support and facilitating collaboration between pertinent actors. This work, conducted under UNODC Myanmar's Sub-Programme 3: Criminal Justice, includes ongoing collaboration with the Union Attorney General's Office (UAGO), the judiciary, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), and civil society actors.

Click here to read about previous collaborations with MPF surrounding GBV.

Click here for more information on UNODC's Myanmar Country Programme.