The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2021/312) issued on 30 March 2021.

Despite a lull in fighting following the general elections in November, armed conflict persisted between the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar armed forces, and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State and southern Chin State, with Kayin State, eastern Bago Region and northern Shan State also marked by conflict. An estimated 130,000 Rohingya in Rakhine State continue to live in encampments in a state of protracted displacement and are subjected to discriminatory movement restrictions that impede their access to livelihood opportunities and services. Reports indicate that parties to the conflict, including ethnic armed organizations in Rakhine, Chin and Shan States, committed sexual violence in 2020. The Tatmadaw was also involved. Security, access and protection concerns for survivors impeded verification. Rohingya women and children in camps for internally displaced persons, and those who fled to Bangladesh, remained at significant risk of sexual violence, including forced marriage and forced pregnancy. Moreover, pandemic-related movement restrictions and economic strain limited livelihood opportunities for women and increased the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, which hosts more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in May. Subsequently, the presence of protection actors in the camps was reduced by half, creating a security vacuum and raising concerns about trafficking and sexual violence. In response, the Bangladesh Armed Police Battalion deployed and increased the number of female officers serving at women and children police help desks.

Following the signature of the 2018 joint communiqué by the Government and the United Nations, a national committee on combating conflict-related sexual violence was formed. However, the draft national plan to implement the communiqué was formulated unilaterally by the Government in 2019, without United Nations engagement. The Government also established its own Independent Commission of Enquiry, which dismissed allegations of sexual violence against the security forces. The Commission’s findings call into question both the willingness of the authorities to ensure genuine accountability and the Commission’s independence (A/HRC/45/5). In June 2020, a woman was reportedly raped by Tatmadaw soldiers who entered her village in Rathedaung township, Rakhine State. Though the incident was initially denied by the Tatmadaw, the military later announced that three soldiers had been prosecuted by a military tribunal and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. The draft law on the prevention of violence against women, developed in 2013, is still pending parliamentary adoption, as are the revisions to the Constitution and Penal Code recommended by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The authorities continue to deny several United Nations mandate holders and human rights mechanisms, including the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, access to the territory of Myanmar. In the hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by the Gambia before the International Court of Justice (The Gambia v. Myanmar), Myanmar did not address the allegations made by the Gambia of sexual violence against Rohingya civilians in northern Rakhine, which were largely based on the reports of the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar.

Recommendation

I reiterate my calls for the full implementation of the 2018 joint communiqué and for the deployment of a women’s protection adviser, in line with Security Council resolution 2467 (2019), to enhance collective efforts to address conflict-related sexual violence. I urge the authorities to grant unhindered humanitarian access to conflict- affected areas to facilitate the delivery of assistance to survivors of sexual violence. I also call for immediate, full, unrestricted and unmonitored access to the territory of Myanmar, including for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.

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