MYANMAR: Burmese activists: law against mixed marriages

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Human Rights

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - The current political initiatives "based on religion", including the proposal for the amendment of the law on mixed marriages, "are not in agreement with the goals of peaceful coexistence between all faiths". At the same time, they do not contribute to the fight against "extremist violence and conflict" but only serve to "distract the public in view of the 2015 elections". This is the claim of 97 Burmese groups, of different ethnicity, religion, marital status and gender, but united in a common movement to counter the reform of the law on marriages favored by Burmese Buddhists and supported by President Thein Sein . In an official document, of 11 points of criticism and seven new proposals, activists denounce an attempt to delay the process of "transition to democracy", an obstacle to the peace process and amendments to the Constitution " demanded by the people of Myanmar".

The document, sent by Catholic activists to AsiaNews, is supported among others by the Kachin Women's Peace Network (Kwpn) , Student Christian Movement (SCM), Women's Federation of World Peace (WFWP), Democracy and Peace Women Network , 88 Generation Students , Open Society and Peace and Yangon School of Political Science (Ysps) . It "strongly rejects" the president of Burma's amendments to the bill on mixed marriages, because it is based on discriminating factors including "the common sense that women are generally physically and mentally weaker than men, and need to be guided and protected by men".

The activists recall that Article 364 of the Constitution states that it " the abuse of religion for political reasons" is prohibited, while the new law could be used "for reasons of political interest" ahead of the 2015 election, and- they warn again - "extreme caution" is needed. The text is not only discriminatory against women Buddhist and other religions, but it also places "responsibility to preserve the race, religion, culture and traditions exclusively on women ."

Women's organizations and pro human rights groups, together with civil society, intend to carry on the fight for the dignity and rights of women, who are likely to be deprived of rights in Myanmar, as "inherent in the survival of liberty and freedom of choice."

Instead, the government's "immediate priority" should be "key amendments to the Constitution" including the necessary changes so that the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi can run for the presidency, and the "peace process on a national scale". The state should also work for the passage of a law requiring the registration of all marriages, without distinction of race, sex and religion. A "minimum age" before which you cannot get married , valid "for men and women" should also be included. Finally, the activists asked for " priority" to be given to women's role in education, healthcare, business opportunities to give them greater decision-making powers.