Rights Groups Say Interfaith Marriage Bill Is an Unnecessary Distraction

Myanmar Rights Groups Say Interfaith Marriage Bill Is an Unnecessary Distraction

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

RANGOON — More than 90 NGOs in Burma have condemned the drafting of a bill to restrict interfaith marriage, saying the bill is an attempt to distract the public from critical issues ahead of the next general election.

If passed, the bill, which the country’s highest court will finish drafting this month, would require Buddhist women to seek permission from authorities before marrying outside their faith. It has been promoted as a way to deter conversion to Islam in the Buddhist majority country.

“We believe that current faith-based political activities, including the arguments against interfaith marriage currently taking place in the country, are not in accordance with the objectives of the peaceful coexistence of all faiths and the prevention of extreme violence and conflict, but are instead events and ideas designed to distract the public before the 2015 election,” the 97 NGOs, including prominent women’s rights groups and ethnic peace groups, said in a statement on Monday.

“We view these events as delaying the momentum of transition to democracy, and as a hindrance to national peace processes and the Constitutional amendments desired by [Burma’s] people.”

They said an interfaith marriage law would place restrictions on women by preventing them from freely making decisions about a matter that affects their daily lives.

“We do not see this as a law that will protect women’s rights,” Thin Thing Aung, a member of the Women’s League of Burma, told The Irrawaddy. “Our women need a law that is not based on religion and which says they can marry whomever they want.”

Aung Myo Min, director of Equality Myanmar, said it would be better to educate women, to ensure they are well informed when presented with the option of religious conversion. “Men should not be writing laws that toy with women’s lives,” he said.

He added that if the bill was passed it could fuel religious conflict in a country that has seen several outbreaks of religious violence over the past year between Buddhists and Muslims. He accused the government of allowing and even perpetuating religious conflict as a method of turning attention away from democracy building.

“We have doubts about their motives,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The High Court started drafting the interfaith marriage bill at the recommendation of nationalist Buddhist monks. It is part of a package of four bills: the other three would ban polygamy, enact population control measures and restrict religious conversion.

The monks collected more than 1 million signatures to back the proposed laws. Proponents have said a population control law is necessary to prevent the Muslim population from growing.

Wirathu, a leader of this monk-led movement, said the bills would not detract from democracy efforts and should be enacted to prevent religious violence.

“The government should work on all things at once that are needed for the country,” he told The Irrawaddy. “I do not think the government is hindering the peace process or constitutional amendments by drafting religious laws. The government has formed different committees that are working on different issues.

“There will be no problem if women desire to convert to another religion. We are drafting this law to protect women against being forced to convert. We will help them.”

The drafting of all four bills is expected to be completed this month. The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is drafting the religious conversion bill, will invite the public to offer feedback, according to Maung Maung Htay, the deputy minister of religious affairs.

Rather than drafting the interfaith marriage bill, the NGOs called on the government to draft a law that would require people to be older than a certain age before marrying. They also urged the legislature to pass a law to prevent violence against women.

“Only when women are able to make decisions on their own that enable them to lead strong, healthy and successful lives, will the country realize genuine development,” the groups said in the statement.

15 Responses to Rights Groups Say Interfaith Marriage Bill Is an Unnecessary Distraction

  1. “More than 90 NGOs in Burma have condemned the drafting of a bill to restrict interfaith marriage, saying the bill is an attempt to distract the public from critical issues ahead of the next general election.’

    Fox future plans
    (1) after cease-fire agreement with some ethnics, the next target is to kill Wa army and DSAK party.
    (2) After killing more KIA, fox can create the second Nay-pyi_daw agreement, associated with fox nargic 2008 raping and killing constitution instead of panglong agreement.
    (3) After killing more local Muslim with the help of psy wirathu, Idiot nationalist Aranknese will get candy stick from Fox than shwe to calm down for their demand of Arankanese autonomy.
    (4) after introducing interfaith marriage for suppression low % of local Muslim , some naive idiot Buddhist monks, like Psy Wirathu will forget both 2007 killing Saffron Monks ( fox mass killing Buddhist monks ) and nargic killing Lapautar town villagers in 2008 as well as its fox private army favored 2008 Constitution.
    (5) After killing local Muslim, China will be reluctant for a while to press fox for continuing their businesses influences in Burma. Fox wants to balance the China power in Burma with those of western countries and Japan. Because China is worried about sino-Burmese racial clash in Burma. However, Fox will face pro-China-Wa army very soon.

  2. After Norman Hla has made himself aware of what is being applied with Sharia Law in Brunei and lately in the Sudan, you might sing a differnt song.

    • If Thein Mg knows about the very very and very low population of Muslim believers in Burma, Thein Mg will sing different song or may go back to Kindergartener instead of notorious DSA to learn about the “probability and statistics” in simple maths.
      Where and which is your learning KG or schools-pseudo-buddhist Wirathu own monk’s schools ?

      Who is your classmates (wirathu or fox than shwe or Arakanese nationalist Dr Aye–) and what levels of education from your both parents are?

      What is the chance of your daughter to be marriaged with Muslim in Burma? High or low?

      • If Thein Mg’s daughter is too poor to get marriaged with Muslim, i can not help her because Burma is the most poorest country in the world, created by bama military thugs and Thein Mg is not interested to fight for democracy for all ordinary Burmese. Thein Mg is only interested in sex, marriage and Pseudo-Buddhism as well as limiting Burmese women right.
        Do Burmese Buddhist men need to get permission from you or Wirathu to get marriaged with Muslim’s ladies?
        if you do not like Brunei or Sudan or Malaysia ( Muslim dominated country), do not go there for visiting or working. Those countries will not or do not dare to invade Burma, the world most poorest country. China and Wa & Kachin armies can protect Burma very well. Don’t worry.

  3. No matter how we cut it, under Islam a non-muslim cannot marry a muslim man or woman without converting to Islam. It is as simple as that. For those who do not convert (and there are some brave souls), their marriage is not recognized under sharia laws.
    BTW, wonder why Norman Hla is being so personal in his attacks!

    • the truth hurts and like a threatened four legged animal snarls and bites.

    • Shwe Min
      Why do not your great great parents set this interfaith marriage restriction in the past?
      If you do not like Brunei’s or Malaysia’s marriage law, do not go their to settle.
      I like to settle in Burma with free of choice in the aspect of marriage. Do you think you are so superior to change the marriage law to restrict other personal affair? Show me how superior/goodness (better than your great great parents) you are to restrict the freedom of choice of other.
      Show me the Muslin religious threat in Burma. “Raping” reward is more from bama solider, not from ordinary Burmese and Muslim.
      The great threat in Burma is not Muslim religion but Fox than shwe and idiot psy Wirathu.

      • Norman,
        I agree with you. Why don’t this regime and fanatic people leave us alone? If Buddhists don’t want their daughters to marry the Muslims, tell their own children to marry their own Buddhists. It is okay to raise their own children as they want them to. But imposing law to all of us this bogus law because of their own failure is absurd. This law is the opposite of the democratic norm. Monks who sacrificed their lives in the hands of Than Shwe are now watching us and crying. Trying to copy Islamic sharia law is as evil as we all can imagine for the future of Myanmar. Thein Sein better delays it from sending to the Hlutdaw and puts on pending until political agreement is done with the ethnics.

      • Norman – many thanks for dragging my “great great parents” into this discussion. Much appreciated.
        Let’s have a healthy debate, not one that’s filled with venom, emotion, and personal attack. For a good response read Reuth Zayneb’s note below.

  4. Shwe Mann will be remembered as Speaker of the House who helps draft the very undemocratic law for the people of Myanmar. USDP regime’s legacy is not a good one. Regime is doing things in a laughable way. Do the people from other religions really want to marry the Buddhist women? People who worship idols are not fit to be parts our our families. Buddhists will leave us(Muslims, Christians, Hindus and so on) alone peacefully. To marry someone from different yoke is not encouraged.

    • Your response comes across as though you (Muslims) are better than people “who worship idols” (i.e., Buddhists). But, then, you also group “idol worshipping” Christians and Hindus together with Muslims. Don’t quite understand what you mean.

  5. Myanmar needs to take a page of the laws in Malaysia and Brunei:
    1. Bumiputras, a Malay Muslim is given preference over others.
    Myanmar can apply similar with modifications, to suit.

    2. Brunei,Sharia Law is applicable to both Muslim and non Muslim,
    Myanmar can apply similar with modifications, to suit.

    Both the above two are members of ASEAN, UN…etc and no one has raised an eyebrow.

  6. So, Shwe Mann can come out and tell my wife who is a Buddhist to come home to her parents. If she chooses this bogus law over our children and myself, it will be fine. But I am 100% sure she will keep sticking with the family. Religious belief is personal and family is more communal. I respect her and her belief, she respects me and my faith. No one, including this bogus law, will separate and divide our family.

  7. Bullying the minority is not something majority group may never be proud of. I will still love my Buddhist friends no matter what USDP and Wirathu try to put between us. Love is the best fruit of every true religion and faith. Hatred and bitterness must not be allowed to enter into our life. Love bears peace and joy. No decent person must consume hatred and bitterness but love and kindness. We cannot upgrade our quality on the foundation hate and bitterness on others. I know there are countless good and kind people among Buddhist Myanmars who embrace differences as God’s given nature.

  8. I just couldn’t get what Norman Hla is talking and why he veered out of the ‘Unnecessary Distraction.’ And I simply don’t understand why he is mad about the idea. As a Muslim woman, and a Burmese Muslim woman, I find his words most hate-mongering. After properly reading whatever is available of the matter I found the subject not only interesting but also full of recognition of human rights of a woman, she may either be a Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or whatever. For me human values should be held high above the religious values. Because all religions came through human beings. And never any religion brought humanity into this earth. I hope all those who are campaigning for the bill are well aware of how the bill, or any other bill, can cut both ways as by double-edged sword. Please let us wait and see before anything stupid is written and discussed on these pages. Let’s take time. If such one-sided laws as Shahriya could be practiced in the civilized world, committing horrible women’s rights violations, and still worshiped like anything, well, the Burmese law does not seem to be that bad, either. I am with the law.

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