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Women’s Organizations Condemn Junta’s Illegal Conscription Law in Myanmar

We, the undersigned women’s organizations and advocates for human rights, equality, justice, and democracy, strongly condemn the recent announcement by the Junta in Myanmar (also known as the State Administration Council) regarding the implementation of the People’s Military Service Law.

In 2010, the military regime, the State Peace, and Development Council, enacted the People’s Military Service Law, mandating state-led conscription for men aged 18 to -35 and women aged 18 to 27, with the age limit extended to 45 for men and 35 for women with specialized skills. The illegal State Administration Council (SAC), which had already launched an unlawful coup, taken over the country’s judicial and legal system, and destroyed any remnant of its rule of law, enforced this law into effect on February 10, 2024. This unlawful enforcement has led to widespread chaos, endangering over 13 million people to forced conscription. The illegal SAC has since used the forced conscription law as grounds to abduct young people, children, and internally displaced persons, and reinforce such acts through this law.

The illegal SAC is using this merciless and wicked law to perpetrate more atrocities, thereby prolonging the ongoing cycle of violence, repression, and militarization in Myanmar. The Burmese military has for over thirty years committed mass atrocities – crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide – against ethnic and religious minorities, and for over three years against the entire population in Myanmar. This law will only embolden the military to expand its brutal control over the country’s people, as well as use them as human shields and pawns in its commission of further acts in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.                          

As women’s organizations, we are deeply concerned about the gendered impact of forced conscription on women and girls, who are often subject to gender-based violence, exploitation, and discrimination, and the ways in which this law will perpetuate the culture of impunity in Myanmar. The Burmese military has for decades used rape as a weapon of war in its attacks against ethnic and religious minority women and wielded such a weapon in prisons and conflict areas nationwide since its attempted coup. Women who will be forcibly recruited will be exposed to rape, gang rape, sexual slavery, and other brutal forms of sexual violence, as well as conflict-related sexual violence, that the military has long perpetrated. 

The forced recruitment law, and the military’s implementation of it, will exacerbate the already dire humanitarian crisis in the country. Many more women will have no choice but to flee the country, forcing them to rely on precarious means of escape such as trafficking and other forms exploitation. Since there are few options to escape forced recruitment, parents and families are resorting to extreme measures including arranging marriages for their underage teenage daughters and sending them overseas through unscrupulous agents or brokers exposing them to various forms of sexual violence and exploitations, including organ harvesting in the worst-case scenarios. The LGBTQI community faces similar risks, including being trafficked into forced labour and sexual exploitation.