Asia Feminist Forum to Discuss Burma’s Interfaith Marriage Bill

By Nyein Nyein 30 May 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Burmese women are raising concerns about a proposed interfaith marriage law during a major conference in Thailand that brings together about 300 feminists from across the Asia-Pacific region.

On Saturday, the second day of the Asia Pacific Feminists Forum (APFF) in the northern city of Chiang Mai, they plan to seek advice as they devise a strategy for countering the proposed law, which would require Buddhist women to get permission from their parents and local authorities before marrying a man of any other faith.

“This law takes away women’s decision-making power,” Htar Htar, founder of the Rangoon-based Akhaya women’s network, told The Irrawaddy on the sidelines of the forum on Friday. “This is not just a local problem—it is a global issue. We will discuss how to respond through collective efforts.”

May Sabe Phyu, coordinator of Burma’s Gender Equality Network, said Burmese women would seek support from other feminists.

“We will see whether they have had experiences tackling similar problems,” she said.

Ten Burmese women are attending the second APFF, which has drawn feminists from 30 Asia-Pacific countries. The first forum was held in 2011.

The forum is organized by the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). Participants discuss a wide range of issues from religious fundamentalism to communal unrest, peace and security, and environmental conservation.

Tin Tin Nyo, secretary of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), said discussions on Friday focused on labor rights, land-grabbing, sexual violence and women’s role in peacebuilding.

“Burmese people face the same difficulties as those in other nations,” she said, calling for “collective movements through the Asia Pacific region, rather than isolated movements in each country.”

Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the APWLD, said the outcomes of the forum would be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

“We want to use this APFF to really bring together feminist movements—and also other movements, not just women’s movements—to collectively demand development justice,” she told The Irrawaddy.