Paper

The Impact of COVID-19 on Ethnic Minority Women in Myanmar’s Conflict Zones

Cassandra Preece, Political Science Department, McMaster University; Elaina Nguyen, Social Justice Institute, University of British Columbia; Aye Lei Tun, Political Science Department, McMaster University

Panel

Myanmar Amidst a Pandemic and a Coup

Abstract

Predating the COVID-19 pandemic, women in Myanmar’s conflict zones such as Rakhine state have experienced significant inequalities in areas such as labour, food security, education, availability of health services, and access to information. These have only been exacerbated since the start of the pandemic. Despite common knowledge that the impacts of COVID-19 are raced and gendered, there is an alarming lack of information that thoroughly accounts for how the COVID-19 pandemic and government policy have impacted ethnic minority women in Myanmar. This paper explores the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority women in Myanmar’s conflict zones by drawing upon qualitative data sources including local and national newspapers and NGO reports. We focus on three areas where the interaction between COVID-19, government responses, and conflict-related circumstances has negatively impacted ethnic minority women: 1) marginalized ethnic women and domestic sexual violence, exacerbated by both armed conflict and lockdown policy responses to COVID-19; 2) ethnic minority women and access to health information during regional internet shutdowns; and 3) disproportionate economic consequences brought about by restrictions on assembly and lockdowns. Findings from this paper contribute to our understanding of the pandemic’s long-term security consequences for ethnic minority women in Myanmar, elucidating areas where future responses and aid will be necessary. Of particular significance considering the recent February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, this research will reflect on the overlap between crises like the pandemic and the disparities associated with conflict.

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