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UNODC helps Myanmar respond to gender-based violence during COVID-19

Yangon (Myanmar), 11 September 2020
- To mitigate the risks faced by frontline police officers during COVID-19, UNODC, in collaboration with UNFPA, has developed and distributed 25,000 pocketbooks to the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) across all 15 of Myanmar’s states and regions. Police officers are essential workers on the frontlines of COVID-19 response, which regularly puts them at risk of exposure to the virus. To ensure frontline MPF officers have the information they need to work safely and effectively during the pandemic, the pocketbook provides officers with concise, actionable guidance based on emerging best practices for policing in the context of a pandemic.

Many aspects of the officers’ work have been impacted by the pandemic, requiring officers to respond to new and unique situations, while also requiring additional steps be taken to ensure their own safety. The pocketbooks directly address these circumstances, placing emphasis on minimizing officers’ exposure to COVID-19 – an essential step for ensuring officers can operate with confidence. The pocketbooks further provide COVID-19 specific guidance on effectively responding to gender-based violence, arrest and detention, and interacting with individuals who use drugs, as well as effectively communicating with the public about COVID-19.

“To support the police in responding effectively to crimes such as gender-based violence, which have been exacerbated during the pandemic, we have collaborated with the MPF to ensure essential information gets directly into the hands of those who need it: frontline law enforcement officers,” said Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC Country Manager for Myanmar. “By providing a large number of these books, 25,000 in total, and having them focus on clear, concrete steps officers can apply in their work day-to-day, we are making sure officers across Myanmar can operate at top capacity despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

One of the most pressing concerns which has arisen since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March has been the reported growth in cases of gender-based violence (GBV). In Myanmar, GBV poses a significant challenge in normal circumstances and, as the result of lockdown/curfew orders, economic strain, and the return of large numbers of migrant workers from abroad, it has become increasingly severe during the COVID-19 outbreak. In this regard, the pocketbooks include information on how to enter homes safely and detain suspects, as well as a quick guide providing officers with 15 clear steps to follow when responding to incidence of GBV.

“The guidance included in the pocketbooks gives officers the essential information they need to respond to gender-based violence confidently during COVID-19," said Ryan Winch, Coordinator of UNODC Myanmar’s GBV Programme. “The pocketbooks are made to be used in the field, so officers can refer to them when they are unsure of how to deal with a situation safely, reminders which we hope can allow them to respond effectively more often. We look forward to continuing to work with the MPF to build officer capacity to apply the guidance included in the pocketbooks.”

The pocketbooks are part of UNODC’s ongoing support to the MPF to prevent and respond to GBV in Myanmar. Most recently, through late 2019 and early 2020, UNODC led a series of trainings on preventing and responding to GBV for 1,700 frontline police officers across each of Myanmar's states and regions. Conducted in collaboration with UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women , these formed parts of a broader UN initiative to comprehensively support efforts against GBV in Myanmar, including improving criminal justice capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and facilitating increased access to essential services and support for GBV survivors. The work is also part of UNODC’s wider support to Myanmar’s criminal justice system for responding to challenges which have arisen as a result of COVID-19 which also includes collaboration with the Union Attorney General's Office (UAGO), the judiciary, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW), and civil society actors.

Click here or here to read more about UNODC Myanmar's response to COVID-19.
Click here to read more about UNODC’s support for the Myanmar Police Force on gender-based violence.
Click here to read more about UNODC Myanmar’s Country Programme.