February 23, 2016
Poor State of Women’s Health and Rights in Myanmar
But Many Opportunities for Progress
In the Asia-Pacific region, Myanmar is often considered as lagging behind on developmental outcomes. Myanmar did not meet many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the country needs much investment in the social sector, especially with regards universal access to health, especially sexual and reproductive health and gender equality, in order to meet the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Investing in the health of citizens, especially in sexual and reproductive health, can act as an equalizing force in society, and enable countries to reduce poverty, create gender equality, and bring about overall development. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) outcomes in Myanmar are among the worst in the Asia-Pacific region and despite an increase in the 2015/16 budget, the country’s health services remain drastically underfunded. There is a critical need for funding and attention to this area.
The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) will be launching a country study on the status of SRHR of women in Myanmar at the 8th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights (APCRSHR), which begins on the 23rd of February 2016 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
This study, focusing mainly on Eastern and Western Myanmar, offers an overview and analysis of government policies and services that were implemented from 2011 to 2015, and identifies key gaps, challenges and opportunities for SRHR advocacy in the country.
The maternal mortality ratio in Myanmar is the highest in South East Asia, at 200 per 100,000 live births. 76% of deliveries take place at home due to women not being able to afford the travel and healthcare costs. The main cause of maternal deaths in Myanmar is postpartum hemorrhage and if all women are to receive maternal healthcare services, 7000 additional midwives are needed in the country.
The study found women and girls from ethnic states and conflict areas to be more marginalized in accessing reproductive health services such as maternal healthcare and contraception. Militarization as well as ongoing armed conflict in border areas and conflict zones in ethnic states have resulted in high levels of violence against ethnic women, perpetrated by the military with no legal redress for victims. Conflict in Myanmar also continues to prevent health workers’ access to villages and prevents people from leaving villages if they need emergency healthcare.
The study gives insight into many aspects of women’s health and rights in Myanmar, including contraception, HIV and AIDS, citizenship, and marriage rights, young people, and rights of sexual and gender minorities. It will be a useful resource for SRHR advocates in Myanmar as they continue to advocate for women’s rights in a political climate that is hopefully changing for the better.
The study recommends that legal reform, especially on gender-based violence and youth development, are opportunities to be explored and that advocates must continue to hold the government accountable to its commitment to universal access to SRHR for all people of Myanmar.
For more information and interviews, contact Sachini Perera at [email protected] or +603 2273 9913