Monks Plan Rally to Demand Interfaith Marriage Law

Marriage Law in Burma

Buddhist monk Wirathu speaks to the public about the interfaith marriage bill in Sagaing Division on May 5, 2014. (Photo: Wirathu / Facebook)

RANGOON —A powerful group of Buddhist nationalist lobbyists has planned nationwide rallies in support of a controversial bill that some say would effectively outlaw interfaith marriage in Burma. Organizers said that they are demanding immediate passage of the Interfaith Marriage Bill, which they first proposed in 2013.

The Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, locally referred to as Ma Ba Tha, said that a successful gathering of about 500 supporters last Saturday in Rangoon would be followed by a similar event in Mandalay “very soon.”

Mandalay-based monk U Wirathu, a member of the Ma Ba Tha and leading proponent of the anti-Muslim 969 movement, told The Irrawaddy that he expectedto draw about 1,000 supporters at the next round of demonstrations.

He said that the legislation has stagnated in Parliament, and the Ma Ba Tha wishes to see decisive action on the bill, which would enact conversion requirements for interfaith couples wishing to marry. The bill has been heavily criticized by civil society and international observers alike for enacting discriminatory boundaries that could create disadvantages for minority faiths and women.

“Parliament has been silent on this bill, and we want to put some pressure on the government and the Parliament to approve it immediately,” said Wirathu, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“Ideally, this bill would be passed by 2015, before there are changes in the government. If it is delayed, the future of our Buddhist women will suffer under threat of forced conversion,” he added, referring to a common belief among Burma’s Buddhist community that women are routinely being coerced to join Muslim families.

This belief has been broadly denounced by women’s rights groups, who claim that the law creates unnecessary restrictions for women who are capable of choosing their own partners.

“If people prefer that others not marry outside their faith, religious leaders can educate people about their options. But this law is unnecessary,” said HtarHtar, founder of the Rangoon-based advocacy group Akhaya Women’s Network. HtarHtar added that she does not support the legislation and believes that it would ultimately do more harm than good.

“We also want to request that the president not enact this law, because it will only create problems and misunderstandings between people with different beliefs,” she said. “We are trying to build peace, stability and democracy in this country.”

The draft legislation would require Buddhist women to receive permission from parents and authorities before marrying a man of another faith, who would then be forced to convert to Buddhism. It is part of a package of four bills drafted by the Ma Ba Thaon the premise of preserving racial and religious norms. The other three bills would ban polygamy, enact population control measures and restrict religious conversion.

Ma Ba Tha proposed the package in mid-2013, and a drafting committee was created to rewrite the bills and push them through Parliament.The legislation was submitted to lawmakers earlier this year with assistance from a member of the National Democratic Force, but it is still unclear when it will come up for a vote.

“We’ve waited several months for the result,” said Dama Sakka U MaungMaung, a chairperson of the Htayrawada Buddhism Network.

“We want these bills to be passed as soon as possible. As for those who oppose this [marriage] bill, we urge them to read it carefully and not just oppose it for political gain,” he added.

The draft legislation has not officially been made public, which could pose some difficulties for those wishing to read it.The Irrawaddy has previously reported that several outspoken members of Burma’s civil society have been physically threatened or otherwise harassed for their opposition to the legislation.

5 Responses to Monks Plan Rally to Demand Interfaith Marriage Law

  1. We Muslims from Myanmar no need to worry about those kids of law we have plenty of Muslim girls to marry in our community. If those tags are that much patriotic than why they are not controlling millions of Burmese girl who are working as prostitute around the world.Those tags are unemployed,bagger how they can help others?

  2. Chin Christians and Kachin Christians are the founding members of the Union. Many dumb Buddhist monks yelled at the Christianity and the Christians. Union of Myanmar is not a Buddhist nation. Proper Myanmar might be a Buddhist land. In the Union of Myanmar, we the Christians have the same right as the Myanmars. If the Christians become targeted along with the Muslims, we rather exit from the Union. The Wa people and the Lahu people from Shan State belong to Christianity. Kayah People also belong to Christianity. If the Buddhist Myanmars cannot accept us, we prefer exiting from the Union.

  3. What kind of monk is U Wirathu? If he were a genuine disciple of Buddha, he wouldn’t be saying or doing things that are against the teachings of Buddha. Buddha never said that everyone MUST follow his teachings. So, how can U Wirathu and his followers force someone to become Buddhist?
    U Wirathu paints a very bad image of Buddhism.

  4. Ma Ba Tha holds views and act contrary to the Buddhist teaching, which allows free will for individuals in religious matters: the Buddha had advised his followers not to go by doctrines and arbitrary laws. Buddhists follow the natural laws as enunciated by the Buddha.
    Traditionally, Buddhists do not force non-believers for conversion. Nor do they use terror techniques or force or regulation by law to bar the Buddhists from quitting. Buddhism go by free will, not by way of force.
    If the marriage bill as they suggested is to be passed, it will amount to criminal offense for those who fails to observe the law. This is exactly what shouldn’t be. It is only a social outlook, nothing to do with man-made law – there is no theft, no robbery, no beating, no killing involved.
    How absurd!
    Ma Ba Tha is trying to convert a social outlook into a criminal case.

  5. You have to. No choice. We are so proud of Sayadaw U Wirathu. A true Myanmar, body and spirit. WE have to seek for justice in this unjust world.

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