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Aung San Suu Kyi Condemns Rape in Conflicts

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks at pictures of herself at a photo exhibition held at the National League for Democracy's office in Rangoon, Burma, May 23, 2011

Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has condemned the use of rape as a weapon of terror in conflicts.

In a recorded video address to a conference in Montebello, Canada, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said rape is used in her country as a weapon against those who want to live in peace, but also want to assert their basic human rights. She said the armed forces use rape to intimidate ethnic nationalities and keep the Burmese people divided.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released in November after having spent most of the past two decades in some form of detention.

In her address to the conference on "Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict," she stressed the need to eradicate rape as a tool of war worldwide.

The three-day conference in Canada is organized by a group of women Nobel laureates.

The Nobel group also points to other strategic uses of sexual violence. Militaries may use it to punish communities suspected of supporting rebels, as in Colombia and Burma. Rape often is used as a form of torture and to extract information. Gang rapes are used to form a bond among fighters or to drive villagers off resource-rich lands.

Hundreds of thousands of women were raped during the conflicts in the Balkans, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. The exact figures are hard to estimate because social taboos in some countries prevent women from coming forward, and known victims are often shunned and left to cope by themselves.

Aung San Suu Kyi says educating men and women is as important as bringing perpetrators to justice in curbing the trend. She said men must learn that they cannot think of women as ready victims, and women should not think of themselves as helpless victims.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.