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Population size

54,045,420 [1]

Number of people experiencing domestic abuse each year:

Women who have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime:17%

Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 months against women: 11% [2]

In its 2018 report, the Mission found that ethnic Rakhine women and girls were subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence by Tatmadaw forces, especially high ranking officers, between 2011 and up until the “clearance operations” against the Rohingya that began on 25 August 2017. 220 Incidents of sexual and gender-based violence have primarily taken place in the context of forced labour 221 or in heavily militarized areas. [3]

Breaking the Devil’s Silence: Sexual Violence in Myanmar report. In 2015-16, a demographic and health survey took place across the states and regions, and it included questions on sexual violence. The study interviewed 632 girls aged 15- 19 and found that 1 percent of that age group had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, with 0.7 percent responding that they had experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months. In 2014, a qualitative study by Gender Equality Network that included interviews with 40 women from Yangon, Mandalay and Mawlamyine showed the seriousness of the problem, as half of the sample said they were raped or sexually assaulted in the past.

Behind the Silence Violence Against Women and their Resilience Myanmar report. An oft-cited report by the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs, reportedly conducted in all states and divisions across Myanmar, says that between 4 to 21 percent of women reported experiencing mental violence and between 3 to 15 percent of women reported experiencing physical violence (Kyu 2004).4 Another randomized household survey conducted in Mandalay asked behaviour specific questions and found that 69 percent of women reported experiencing psychological, physical and/or sexual violence in the past twelve months. The prevalence of women’s reported experiences of only physical violence in the past twelve months was 27 percent (Kyu and Kanai 2005).5 A community-based screening survey in Yangon found that 19 percent of women reported experiencing violence directly, and 53 percent knew women within their communities or families who experienced violence (NCA, DSW and MMCWA 2013). In the ethnic Palaung region, survey results showed that 90 percent of participants had ‘experienced or seen physical violence within families in their communities’, and 62 percent of respondents experienced or witnessed physical violence within the family on a daily basis (PWO 2011). The wide variance of prevalence is likely due to use of different methodologies and different definitions of violence against women across studies. [4]

No research on male victims or other gender identities.

Cost of domestic abuse to the economy each year:

No research.

Estimated % change due to COVID-19:

No research.

Current law and policy:

Mediation remains a key remedy which is often an unfair way of remedying domestic abuse because of the social pressure the woman may be put under. A ‘National Prevention and Protection of Violence Against Women law; was first proposed in 2013 but remains stuck at the drafting stage. The Myanmar Penal Code is vague and rarely used to prosecute cases of domestic violence; narrow definition of rape and excludes martial rape; enforcement of the law is weak, especially in more rural areas.

Customary law and criminal law are both key in the general legal structure of the country and neither deal suitably with domestic abuse.

A US funded demographic and health survey suggests at least 1/5 women are abused by a partner. There is no specific law against domestic violence. The rely on intervention by local leaders to arrange settlements with partners whose abuse is largely regarded as a private affair.[5]

It is hoped that the first ‘National Prevention and Protection of Violence Against Women’ will give protection from violence to women, including domestic abuse. It was first proposed in 2013 but remains stuck at the drafting stage. Its provisions have been revised and debated over issues such as whether to outlaw marital rape. Socially conservative and male-dominated – lived under military rule until the first fully civilian government in 2015. Women largely absent from public leadership roles. The Myanmar Penal Code – vague and rarely used to prosecute cases of domestic violence. Definition of rape is narrow and excludes marital rape. Enforcement of the existing criminal law is especially weak in conservative rural areas – women are often regarded as the property of their husbands. 27 cases of domestic violence reported to police in a South-eastern state in recent years and only one reached the courts.[6]

The Myanmar customary law is a social and secular law based upon the custom and usages historically accepted by the ancient Myanmar. Mainly based on rulings compiled by the State’s Highest Courts in accordance with customs and ethics accepted by Myanmar Buddhist people. The term ‘domestic violence’ is not within the customary law – can be found closely in the meaning of cruelty described therein. Cruelty means not only physical cruelty but also mental pain. Must be done with indifference or with the want of pain and suffering. Remedies include divorce by matrimonial fault or caused by grievous cruelty.[7]

The Penal Code (1st May 1861) has various sections referring to offences against women. Np specific reference to domestic violence but it may be included within physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse.  Nature of domestic violence accepted in wider law may not be recognised as a violation of human rights under the criminal law in Myanmar.

There are some more specific laws such as the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association Law 1990.

However, there are significant obstacles facing women suffering domestic violence when at court and in the community. Men are the leaders within families – prevents women from disputing their husbands or expressing their feelings. Most domestic violence cases are regarded as ordinary family affairs and any other person is not willing to admit of the cases before the court. Most cases at the court are proceeded under s.323 Penal Code (voluntarily causing hurt). Punishments included imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of a minimal amount. No effective punishment will be imposed. Amendments made to the code in 2016 – increased amount of fine can now be imposed.

Proposed reforms include the establishment of the Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs in 1996 as a national machinery to carry out the Beijing Declaration and platform of Action, in order to promote and protect women and girls.

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Law enacted by Parliament in 2014 to comply with Paris principles and promote and protect the rights of citizens enshrined in the constitution, those contained in the UDHR and international human rights instruments applicable to Myanmar. Any citizen may send a complaint to this body when their fundamental human rights are violated. Despite commitments to ratify Conventions, Myanmar needs to take concrete steps to effectively implement all the instruments to which it is a party (including CEAFDW).

It had been predicted that the Law for Protection from Violence against Women legislation would be enacted in 2019 – No research. of this that I can find online or of further future commitments to enact. This legislation would criminalise domestic violence and martial rape. Would also provide legal and medial support for survivors of violence. Activists have suggested this legislation will still only do so much to achieve gender equality in the country, which is still largely in denial about these issues. Part of a wider gender inequality issue within the country.

Frontline Services:



[1] The World Bank, (1).

[2] UN Women, “Global Database on Violence Against Women – Myanmar”, (

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