To Myanmar President Thein
Sein and Speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw Thura Shwe Mann,
We call on the Government of Myanmar to urgently
reconsider and halt the drafting of the Interfaith Marriage bill, known as the
Law on Protection of Race and Religion, which is currently being drafted by a President-appointed Drafting
Committee for consideration by the Parliament.
This bill will have a dire and catastrophic impact
on women’s human rights, is likely to polarize and ignite further violence
between religious communities in Burma/Myanmar, will cause grave damage to
Burma/Myanmar’s international reputation, and threatens to derail the
democratic reform process.
This proposed bill includes four elements that
contravene international human rights:
(1) The Religion Conversion Law forces
a person to provide reason for conversion
and undergo investigation from a registration committee to receive
approval on what should be a personal, faith-based decision
(2) The Interfaith Marriage Law
restricts the rights of Buddhist women who must get permission from parents and
government officials to marry non-Buddhist men. This bill also forces
non-Buddhist men to convert to Buddhism before marrying Buddhist women.
(3) The Population control law proposes
discriminatory measures aimed at controlling the growth of the Muslim
population in the country
(4) Monogamy law: this is an
unnecessary law which will add to the large number of laws in Burma/Myanmar
which restrict and regulate women’s sexuality, marriage and inheritance rights,
and are in urgent need of reform to meet international human rights standards.
violates basic international human rights standards and directly contravenes
your Government’s commitment to the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It restricts women’s equality and
freedom, discriminates against Myanmar Buddhist women in Burma/Myanmar, women
of other faiths residing in Burma/Myanmar, and indigenous women, and is based
on discriminatory beliefs that deny women the inherent rights of freedom of
survival and freedom of choice. Drafting the Interfaith Marriage Law, at a time
when the Government is submitting a report to the CEDAW committee in August
2014, would demonstrate the Government’s violation of both human rights and
women’s rights and would be a disgraceful act inviting international ridicule.
bill also promotes faith-based extremist nationalism which can destroy state
peace and incite conflict, and contravenes Article 364 of the Constitution that
forbids the abuse of religion for political purposes. The country's transition
to democracy is being watched and supported internationally, and drafting laws
which do not meet democratic ideals can damage the image of Burma/Myanmar and
dignity and hinder democracy building.
bill is widely opposed by civil society groups in Burma/ Myanmar with 161
leading women’s groups and civil society organizations nationwide endorsing a
Statement against the Interfaith Bill in May 2014. It has also been opposed by
civil society groups at the recent ASEAN Civil Society Forum in Burma/Myanmar
and by leading organizations in the Asia Pacific Region.
therefore request that you:
halt the drafting of the Interfaith Marriage bill.
towards a law requiring the compulsory registration of all marriages regardless
of race, religion and sex.
the effective implementation of existing public laws which are useful; amend
laws which discriminate against women; and approve and implement the
anti-violence against women law currently being drafted to international
initiatives to raise men and women in Burma/Myanmar in a way that nurtures them
to value and respect heritage, religion, culture and traditions rather than
imposing the responsibility of preserving race, religion, culture and
traditions of a country entirely on women.
Posted: 16 June 2014 (Updated: 14 April 2015)