Women in Myanmar Targeted by Pro-Military Social Media
Aysu Amaha Öztürk
Myanmar and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
A social media study conducted by Myanmar Witness found that women who have expressed anti-military and anti-junta views on social media received threats of violence, rape and death by pro-military social media users (2023). Since the junta took control, women have been using social media platforms as a space for dissent and resistance.
According to the study, social media abuse against women in Myanmar has increased fivefold since the junta took control of Myanmar (Myanmar Witness, 2023). The abuse is usually coming from male-presented pro-military accounts and specifically targets women. Doxxing has been the main way of abuse towards women and it also seems to be linked to offline violence and arrests of women. It has been found that women are subjected to doxxing more than men even if the political views expressed and visibility rate is similar (Myanmar Witness, 2023). The doxxing includes calling on the military to arrest these women, seizing their property, and threatening them in multiple ways including rape.
This results in women being silenced and retreating from public life as they become afraid of the consequences of their online presence (Myanmar Witness, 2023). It has also been reported that these consequences are not only physical but also emotional and psychological. The fact that social media platform moderation practices have not been able to stop the abuse and the doxxing, adds to the aforementioned anxiety of women (Myanmar Witness, 2023).
Myanmar ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1992 (Ratification Status of Myanmar), an international treaty aiming to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and promote gender equality. Article 2(f) of CEDAW requires states to take all appropriate measures and practices that discriminate against women. It has been established that this provision can be interpreted as state parties being required to take measures to eliminate violence against women (General Recommendation No.19, 1992). Furthermore, in General Recommendation No. 35 (2017), this request to the state parties has extended to violence against women in technology-mediated settings. It has been clarified that technology-mediated settings that facilitate gender based violence are to be also monitored and this monitoring should serve to improve and further develop preventive measures. General Recommendation No. 35 (2017) also states that prohibition of gender-based violence against women is customary international law. Myanmar is therefore not only violating CEDAW but also customary international law by failing to support gender-based violence through state-supported social media accounts and not helping women be protected on social media. Myanmar should immediately take action so that all women and girls can enjoy their freedom of expression and other basic human rights.
Sources and further reading:
Myanmar Witness. (2023). Digital Battlegrounds.
Human Rights Bodies. Ratification Status for Myanmar. United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies Database. https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/15/TreatyBodyExternal/Treaty.aspx?CountryID=119&Lang=EN
General Recommendations Adopted by The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women: Eleventh session (1992). General Recommendation No.19: Violence against women. Researchers replicate famous marshmallow test, make new observations. (2018, May 25). United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies. https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CEDAW/Shared%20Documents/1_Global/INT_CEDAW_GEC_3731_E.pdf
General recommendation No. 35 on gender-based violence against women, updating general recommendation No. 19 (2017, July 26). United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies. https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/231/54/PDF/N1723154.pdf?OpenElement