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Soc Sci Med. 2001 Aug;53(4):543-50.

Shan women and girls and the sex industry in Southeast Asia; political causes and human rights implications.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and International Health, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


The human rights abuses which occur during civil conflicts pose special threats to the health and lives of women. These can include rape, sexual violence, increased vulnerability to trafficking into prostitution, and exposure to HIV infection. The long-standing civil conflict in the Shan States of Burma is investigated as a contributing cause to the trafficking of ethnic Shan women and girls into the Southeast Asian sex industry, and to the subsequent high rates of HIV infection found among these women. The context of chronic human rights abuses in the Shan states is explored, as well as the effects of recent forced population transfers on the part of the Burmese Military Regime. Rights abuses specific to trafficked women may further increase their vulnerability to HIV and other STD. The need for a political resolution to the crisis in Burma is discussed, as are approaches aimed at preventing trafficking, empowering women already in the sex industry, and reducing the risks of HIV and other STD among these women and girls.

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