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Against COVID background, calls for more cooperation in countering gender-based violence in Myanmar

Yangon (Myanmar), 16 October 2020
- Amidst growing concerns over an increase in gender-based violence (GBV) during the COVID-19 pandemic, high-level representatives from the Myanmar Government, UN agencies, and civil society today discussed strategies for stronger coordination and more effective responses. Organized by UNODC and UNFPA, the roundtable provided a unique forum for GBV response actors to discuss their experiences addressing GBV during the pandemic, and to jointly develop strategic actions to mitigate emerging risks and coordination challenges.

Gender-based violence is a significant challenge facing Myanmar in normal circumstances, but as COVID-19 restrictions have made implementing a coordinated response more difficult, it has also brought together, at an unprecedented scale, a variety of stress factors, such as lockdown and curfew policies; the disruption of economic, social and protective networks; sudden changes in family functioning; increased substance abuse; and decreased access to essential services. A number of participants at the roundtable highlighted that incidence of GBV has been increasing, with some expressing alarm over the growing number of reports being received. Importantly, the discussion showed a general agreement among key actors that improved coordination could significantly improve the situation.

“Through working together, we truly believe we can move towards having a country where incidences of GBV decline each year, and that within several years, our cooperation will lead to a Myanmar where no individual is living in fear of domestic violence,” highlighted Daw Moe Hnin Lwin, Director at the Union Attorney General’s Office. “GBV is a profound issue that cannot be solved by one organization alone, and today’s roundtable is a step forward in this regard.” Participants from other government agencies, including the Myanmar Police Force, the Supreme Court of the Union, the Department of Social Welfare, and the Ministry of Health and Sports, as well as leading Myanmar civil society groups, echoed this sentiment and endorsed closer collaboration moving forward.

“Today’s roundtable was an important opportunity to get a clear picture of the GBV situation across Myanmar, and to agree on steps to improve coordination between all actors along the GBV response chain,” said Benedikt Hofmann, UNODC Country Manager. “The ideas put forward today reflect a clear willingness to jointly improve these responses and will contribute to making Myanmar a safer place where fewer individuals live under threat of violence.”

The event also enabled conversations about potential action to more generally address the prevalence of GBV within Myanmar. Moreover, it underscored the continued commitment, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, of all actors to address GBV in a holistic manner, including through ensuring access to essential services for survivors and by seeing that perpetrators face justice.

“While today’s roundtable focused on urgent steps to be taken during COVID-19, it is this type of cooperation that will lead to longer-term impacts beyond the pandemic, and I look forward to continuing the discussions in the coming months,” added Ryan Winch, Coordinator of UNODC’s Gender-based Violence Programme.

UN Agencies in attendance – UNODC, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women - committed to supporting the implementation of recommendations put forward by participants, including holding more frequent coordination meetings, providing increased opportunities to learn from international counterparts and improving GBV related data collection/sharing, as well as to continuing the discussion with all stakeholders to ensure the Roundtable’s discussions lead to a sustainable, long-term impact.

The organization of the Roundtable was part of UNODC’s ongoing support for GBV response actors in Myanmar, as well as for Myanmar’s criminal justice system more widely – support which has recently focused on responding effectively in the context of COVID-19. Most recently, UNODC developed and distributed 25,000 pocketbooks to MPF officers with concise, actionable guidance based on emerging best practices for responding to GBV cases during a pandemic. Through late 2019 and early 2020, UNODC led a series of trainings on preventing and responding to GBV for 1,700 frontline MPF officers across each of Myanmar's states and regions. UNODC’s Gender-based Violence Programme focuses on collaboration with the Union Attorney General's Office (UAGO), Myanmar Police Force (MPF) and the judiciary to address GBV in Myanmar.

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