How Many More Human Rights Violations Before Aung San Suu Kyi Becomes A Fallen Leader?

At the Asia-Pacific summit 2018 held in Nepal, Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for “a culture of peace” to end conflict between the communities. The summit organized by the Nepalese government and the Universal Peace Foundation was held under the theme ‘Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values.’

Speaking at the summit, the Nobel Prize Winner said, “…cooperation between nations to seek peace and mutual prosperity and only by promoting a culture of peace in this world of interdependence it will be possible to create harmony between diverse countries and societies.”

However, at the same summit, Suu Kyi chose to remain silent on the Rohingya crisis which has led the United Nations to call for a genocide investigation.

An Image Now Tainted

Suu Kyi who was once seen as a flag bearer of Universal Human Rights – a principled activist willing to give up her freedom to stand up to the ruthless generals who ruled Myanmar for decades, has been in news recently for driving Rohingya minorities with the aid of the country’s army from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. This mass killing and crack down by security forces has led to the exodus of lakhs of Rohingyas to the southeastern coastal town of Bangladesh called Cox’s Bazar.

According to a United Nations report, over 727,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar, thousands have been killed and women have been subjected to brutal sexual violence. Many human rights groups as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have described it as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ but Aung San Suu Kyi has not spoken a single word about the actions of Myanmar’s military and government.

The World Expresses Concern

Recently, the mayor of the city of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced that Aung San Suu Kyi will be stripped of her award of the honorary freedom of the city over her failure to speak out against the crackdown on Myanmar’s Rohingya community. With this, Myanmar’s current leader becomes the first person to lose the freedom of the French capital, a purely symbolic award.

Earlier, the same leader was yet again the first person whose honorary Canadian citizenship was revoked by the Canadian government. Both houses of Canadian parliament passed a resolution to strip Suu Kyi of the symbolic honour because of her failure to stand for justice for the Rohingya community.

Amnesty International followed suit and “expressed deep anguish and disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.”

Challenges Suu Kyi Faces

Under pressure from the around the globe, the Myanmar government signed an official deal with the United Nations and Government of Bangladesh, wherein it was agreed upon that efforts would be made to create appropriate conditions for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine state. To date, no such returns have happened and the condition of the Rohingya community continues to worsen.

The biggest worry Suu Kyi faces are the sanctions by the United Nations on Myanmar because of the government’s failure to prosecute the military leaders. The Trump administration has already placed sanctions on four commanders of Myanmar’s military and Border Guard Police (BGP) and two military units for their involvement in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state and other widespread human rights abuses.

The United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar has concluded that members of the Rohingya community were subject to the most horrendous torture and these crimes were orchestrated by military leaders. The report from the mission also recommended that the Security Council must refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to acknowledge the Rohingya crisis at the Asia Pacific summit this year has once again created an uproar and her refusal to speak against Myanmar’s military commanders has dented her image of being a democratic leader.

Myanmar’s head of state must address the fears of the country’s neighbours and the global community regarding human rights violations in the Rakhine state; and subsequently chalk out a plan to end the crisis in order to bring peace and tranquility within the South Asian region.

Featured image source: Pariwartan TV/YouTube.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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