Abuse Takes Many Forms; Our Frontline Healthcare Workers Are Not Immune

She felt unsafe after she received the message. So, she told her family about it the same day. In the evening, she slept in the room of a female colleague as she felt increasingly unsafe. 

By Myo Chay 18 Jun 2022

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Written by Myo Chay 

It was around 7 p.m. on May 10 at a cottage hospital in Zeditaung village, part of Arakan State’s Buthidaung Township. A 23-year-old nurse was preparing to take a bath when she heard a knock at the door of the hospital bathroom. 

As she opened the door, she saw Daw Nwe Nwe Oo, the wife of Nyi Nyi Maung, a doctor from her hospital. “I am not happy about what you did,” Daw Nwe Nwe Oo said before she started to beat her, according to the nurse. 

“She pulled my hair and slapped me on my face. I was only wearing a htamein [as I was about to bathe] and I was only caring that it did not fall off. I could not repulse her. Her husband gripped my arms and the wife beat me,” the nurse told DMG. 

She shouted for help. Daw Nwe Nwe Oo left as some colleagues came. However, Nyi Nyi Maung and his male assistant pushed her into the bathroom and locked the door, and attempted to beat her. 

“I ran and opened the door. Then some people came in. The doctor left and I almost fainted,” said the nurse. 

A female healthcare worker from the hospital who heard the nurse’s cry for help said he saw the doctor and his assistant coming out of the bathroom. She said she saw her head was swollen, and her neck was bruised. 

“It is unacceptable that he, as a doctor, has beaten his subordinates. It is a real cause for concern for female staff,” she said. 

The nurse alleges that she was verbally abused by the doctor in January. The nurse said she received a suggestive text message — “Are you sleeping? Shall we sleep together?” — from the doctor on January 11. 

She felt unsafe after she received the message. So, she told her family about it the same day. In the evening, she slept in the room of a female colleague as she felt increasingly unsafe. 

“We had only talked about our jobs, and we had never had cordial chit-chat. So, I got angry when I received an explicit message. I thought he is not respectful of me because I am young. And I felt unsafe and had concerns,” said the nurse. 

Two days later, joined by her parents, she filed a complaint with the medical superintendent of Buthidaung Township. They decided to withdraw the complaint after the medical superintendent apologised to her on behalf of the doctor, said Daw Saw Nyunt, the mother of the nurse. The following day, the doctor said he mistook her phone number for his wife’s phone, and wrongly sent the text message. 

“We can’t accept the beating. I’ve asked authorities to take appropriate legal actions,” said the mother of the nurse. 

The victim went to Nyaungchaung police station in Buthidaung Township to lodge a complaint. The Buthidaung police have opened a case against the alleged assailant under Section 451 of the Penal Code for trespassing in order to commit an offence; Section 294 of the Penal Code; and Section 354 of the Penal Code for assault, according to Daw Mya Thuzar, a lawyer with the Legal Clinic Myanmar. 

“When the case comes to court, our legal team will follow up on the case. It must be said that this is terrorism. We will give legal advice to the client and accompany her when she comes to court. Our legal team will assist her as required by law,” the lawyer told DMG. 

Legal Clinic Myanmar is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to promoting human rights and the rule of law, and advocating for justice and access to justice. It has offices in Arakan State’s Sittwe and Kyaukphyu townships. 

There has been outrage in the nursing community over the beating, and human rights and women’s rights activists have pointed fingers at the doctor and his wife. The Rakhine Women’s Network (RWN) said in a statement on May 13 that sexual exploitation and violence against women in the workplace were unforgivable crimes. 

The statement said it was clear that there was still a lack of protection against violence and sexual exploitation in the workplace for all women in Arakan State. 

“We issued this statement because we want women to be protected. Most importantly, I would like to call for the safety of women everywhere, including in the workplace, and for the authorities to take effective action against this practice,” said Daw Nyo Aye, chairwoman of RWN. 

Authorities have not yet commented on the doctor or his wife’s alleged actions. DMG also contacted senior officials from the state health department, who declined to comment. According to a post circulating on social media, the doctor was transferred back to Sittwe General Hospital as of May 11. 

Dr. Kyi Kyi Thar, director of the Arakan State Health Department, and the victim were not immediately available for comment. 

“I want the perpetrators to be afforded due process under the law. I would be happy if both of them were imprisoned,” the victim said. 

{In accordance with considerations for the dignity of the victim and DMG’s editorial ethics policy, the name of the nurse has not been disclosed.}