MPs Demand Parliament Considers Violence Against Women Measures

By Yen Saning 3 February 2015

RANGOON —Lower House lawmakers in Naypyidaw have accepted a resolution calling on the government to urgently finish drafting violence against women measures and table a workable bill, noting that the proposal has been stalled for a year without any legislative action.

Introduced by Hpa-an lawmaker Nan Say Owa, a member of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, the resolution was accepted unanimously on Monday.

“I want this law to be drafted urgently. In our country, we have seen murder and sexual violence against women in [Arakan State]. At the moment there is the case of the two Kachin teachers,” she told The Irrawaddy, referring to last month’s suspected rape and murder of two Kachin teachers in the Shan State village of Kaung Kha. “If the law is effectively enforced and the obvious punishments are given out, these cases will happen less.”

Nan Say Owa added that she wanted the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement to finish drafting the bill and submit it for discussion before the end of the current parliamentary session, in order for the law to be given a chance of enactment after this year’s general election.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Brig-Gen Kyaw Zan Myint told parliament on Monday that eleven of the violence against women bill’s 20 chapters had been completely finalized by the ministry. Naw Tha Wah, the director of the Social Welfare Department said that the remaining nine chapters were still the subject of consultations with political parties, experts and NGOs, and the ministry hoped for a draft bill to be introduced by the end of the current fiscal year on Mar. 30.

One of the participants in draft consultations, Gender Equality Network director May Sabae Phyu, said the delay was necessary to ensure a rigorous draft was presented to parliament.

“This is not something we can just write down and submit,” she said. “We wanted to have public discussion on what kind of measures should be in the law. That’s why we are taking some time with the drafting process.”

Thin Thin Aung, advisory board member of the Women’s League of Burma, said that the yearlong drafting process highlighted problems arising from the relatively rapid introduction of the so-called “protection of race and religion” laws, a legislative package aiming to restrict interfaith marriage, population growth, polygamy and religious conversions.

“The laws to protect race and religion were quite quick, while the drafting of laws to stop violence against women have taken about a year,” she said. “When a new law is enacted, the effects of the law should be considered. The law on population control impacts women and the religious conversion law has an effect on all religions. The government needs to consult and negotiate.”

Thin Thin Aung said the law to protect violence against women should be enacted before the protection of race and religion laws were considered, stating that it was imperative that the four bills are subject to consultation with women’s groups and religious organizations.

Additional reporting by Zu Zu.