APWLD condemns attacks and threats against women human rights defenders in Burma / Myanmar targeted for opposing the Interfaith Marriage Bill
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) supports our members, women human rights defenders and allied movements defending women’s rights in Burma / Myanmar and consequently opposing the Interfaith Marriage Bill.
According to information gathered by APWLD members, at least four activists have received threats after including their contact information in early May 2014 in a public statement objecting to the Interfaith Marriage Bill. Since then, they have received anonymous phone calls and online messages threatening them, including death threats. One activist was forced to change her handset over concerns about data security; while another is reluctant to connect to the Internet on her phone due to the threatening messages. The safeties of these activists’ families are also being highly concerned.
If enacted, the Bill would violate the rights and fundamental freedoms of Buddhist women. It would force women to get permission from parents and government officials to marry non-Buddhist men The Bill imposes a patriarchal concept of marriage that assumes women pass from property of the father to the husband violating women’s rights to freely choose their religion, cultural beliefs and practices, partners, sexuality, and has the potential to violate their freedom of expression, association and movement.
If read in its entirety – with all four proposed Laws1 – the Bill is designed to foster a nation of one religion and one ethnicity while marginalizing or even criminalizing others. Consequently the Bill systematically marginalizes women who belong to other religions or ethnicities.
It is evident that the Bill is dividing the community and inciting conflict, hatred and violence within the country. Further, the harassment, intimidation and threats against women human rights defenders attempting to engage in their democratic right to debate public policy violates their rights to expression, movement and safety.
We urge the Government of Myanmar to:
- Acknowledge and protect the legitimate work of women human rights defenders and other human rights communities opposing the Bill.
- Immediately conduct a comprehensive investigation into any incidents of threats and intimidation against women human rights defenders targeted for their action against the proposed Bill; and take action against the perpetrators.
- Abandon the Interfaith Marriage Bill in its entirety and protect women’s human rights including freedom of religion or belief, right to freely choose a partner, right to live free from violence, and make decisions over their own bodies and lives.
- Amend or eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices as well as enact progressive laws that advance women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms with meaningful participation of women’s rights organizations and movements.
- Respect and implement obligations as a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UN Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and other international conventions, as well as its own Constitution.
APWLD is a leading network of over 180 women’s rights organizations and activists representing groups of diverse women from 26 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
What you can do:
We encourage fellow women human rights defenders, human rights community and civil society organizations to support the struggle by signing the online petition on Avaaz.org, created by Women’s League of Burma.
For more information: follow the links below:
 This Bill is composed of the four elements: a) The Religion Conversion Law; b) The Interfaith Marriage Law; c) The Population Control Law; and d) Monogamy Law.