On Feb. 1, 2021, Myanmar’s army seized energy. Whereas a dramatic occasion, the coup was a continuation of previous energy constructions.
Myanmar’s decade-long interval of political transition, peace-building and democratic elections fell in need of liberating the nation from army management. Regardless of its feminine chief, the exclusion of girls all through the failed transition to democracy is partly why Myanmar was unable to create deep institutional change.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s picture as “mom of the nation” depicted her as a caring matriarch. This picture stood in distinction with the tough patriarchy of army rule. However politics in Myanmar defy stereotypes and easy classifications.
Suu Kyi might have been the face of the period of democratic reforms, however in actuality, the transition was initiated and managed by the army. Suu Kyi’s legacy as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate was completely stained by her dealing with of the Rohingya genocide, and her projected femininity and democratic idealism shouldn’t be confused for feminism or inclusive democracy.
(AP Picture/Peter Dejong)
Gender can nonetheless assist us perceive politics in Myanmar, nevertheless — simply not alongside these strains. As an alternative, a distinct story emerges by trying on the exclusion of girls in key phases of the transition course of. It’s a story of the persistence of patriarchal energy all through the last decade of democratization.
Structure saved males in cost
The governing patriarchy is on full show within the 2008 structure that spurred Myanmar’s decade of democracy. In keeping with one provision of the structure, sure positions are appropriate for males solely. Ladies are excluded from key ministerial positions, and a significant authorities company, the Union Civil Service Board, commonly makes use of this clause of the structure to dam functions from girls for each mid- and junior-level positions. This caps a long time of maximum repression of girls.
The Myanmar military is notorious for its systematic concentrating on of ethnic minority girls and ladies for sexual violence, and the militarization of the nation has contributed to widespread discriminatory practices.
Web blackouts in Myanmar enable the army to retain management
The peace course of (2011-15) between the Tatmadaw — Myanmar’s army — and ethnic armed teams which have lengthy challenged its maintain on the nation was a deal involving males. Solely 4 girls served inconsistently on senior negotiation delegations (lower than six per cent). Ladies have been additionally largely excluded from ceasefire constructions and monitoring groups.
Different essential establishments additionally didn’t modernize in the course of the transition. As an alternative, they typically mirrored conservative and conventional attitudes. Ladies’s illustration in parliament gained roughly 5 per cent in each the 2015 and 2020 elections, rising from lower than 5 per cent in 2014 to simply over 15 per cent in November’s contested election. Essential as this progress was, equality was in the end handcuffed by the embedded patriarchy of the army.
The army orchestrated the democratic transition based on guidelines designed to offer them continued affect. In so doing, they hamstrung girls’s political inclusion.
(AP Picture/Aung Shine Oo)
The Tatmadaw additionally retained the appropriate to nominate 25 per cent of legislative seats. A army background is required for sure ministerial positions. Since girls have been solely not too long ago allowed to serve within the army, the requirement successfully makes them ineligible to carry these places of work.
There have been solely two girls among the many 166 army appointees following the 2015 elections. The army appointed solely 10 per cent of girls to nationwide, state and regional legislative chambers in 2020. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Growth Social gathering (USDP) solely elected one lady to each the 2015 and 2020 parliaments. The army quota makes reform unlikely as a result of any constitutional modification to deal with discrimination requires 75 per cent approval.
The patriarchy of the army is mirrored within the non-military political events, however Suu Kyi’s management. The events are gatekeepers to girls’s illustration. However they’ve usually not taken steps to enhance girls’s political participation.
No fast repair
We’re not arguing extra girls in Myanmar politics would have prevented the coup. There isn’t any such factor as a fast repair to get rid of the nation’s historical past of militarization.
However we do counsel that ladies’s relative absence from positions of affect helped allow the army to keep up its grip on energy.
(AP Picture/Aung Ko San)
Understanding this connection is essential for 3 causes. First, giving girls a seat on the desk makes a distinction. Analysis exhibits that equality and inclusion foster sustainable peace, which means that the attitudes of the collaborating males are additionally required. Quite than simply armed organizations, civil society teams and ladies’s organizations ought to be included in transitions from battle to peace.
Second, the ladies’s motion in Myanmar presents new fashions for collaborative governance. Relegated to the shadows, girls’s teams nonetheless organized to contribute to the peace course of by way of casual channels, together with back-channel negotiation. They’ve proven a path for bridging ethnic variations to work in the direction of widespread objectives.
Lastly, by tracing the trail of patriarchy in Myanmar, we will higher perceive what introduced concerning the coup. As we grapple with why the army staged a coup at this specific second in time, it ought to be seen in mild of the nation’s militarized current historical past and the ability dynamics of the transition. Ladies’s rights organizations are at present mobilizing and are placing it on the market fairly merely: a militarized Myanmar is a menace for girls.
Gabrielle Bardall has consulted for The Carter Middle Myanmar challenge prior to now.
Elin Bjarnegård receives funding from the Swedish Analysis Council.