Suu Kyi Blasts Proposed Law on Marriage Restrictions

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at her 68th birthday celebration at her party headquarters in Bahan Township, Yangon, June 19, 2013.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has criticized a proposed law by a group of nationalist Buddhist monks restricting Muslim men and those of other faiths from marrying Buddhist women, saying it was discriminatory and violated human rights.

Under the proposal, non-Buddhist men wishing to marry Buddhist women in Myanmar have to convert to Buddhism. They also have to gain permission from the parents of the Buddhist women and local government officials before tying the knot.

The proposed law was circulated at a conference of Buddhist monks recently amid continuing tensions following anti-Muslim violence since last year in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi told RFA's Myanmar Service that the proposal discriminated against women, violated human rights and the country's laws, and was contrary to Buddhism itself.

"This is one-sided. Why only women? You cannot treat the women unfairly," the 68-year-old Nobel laureate said. "There should not be any discrimination between the men and women."

"I also understand that this is not in accordance with the laws of the country and especially that it is not part of Buddhism," said Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the opposition National League for Democracy.

"It is a violation of women's rights and human rights," said Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred by the country's constitution from becoming the president because she had married a foreigner and her children are foreign citizens. She and her husband, the late British academic Michael Aris, had two sons who are British.

Signature campaign

The controversial proposal on marriage restrictions was led by nationalist monk Wirathu who, according to reports, wants to collect signatures to pressure the country's parliament to adopt the law.

Wirathu heads Burma's so-called "969" movement, which represents a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism that urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services following sectarian violence since last year which has left about 200 people dead and displaced 140,000, mainly Rohingya Muslims.

He said the law would be modeled along regulations restricting interfaith marriage in other countries, such as those in neighboring Malaysia which forbids Muslims from marrying non-Muslims unless the non-Muslims embrace Islam.

Burmese women's rights groups plan to launch a public campaign to stop the contentious draft law, which also stipulates that those who flout the rule could face up to 10 years in prison and have their property confiscated.

Earlier this week, eight women's rights groups based in Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon issued a joint statement condemning Wirathu’s proposed draft law, which he had claimed would “protect Buddhist women’s freedom,” Myanmar's online Irrawaddy journal reported.

“Buddhist women are the target of this draft law, and we know nothing about it all. The ones who drafted the bill are monks. That means it doesn’t represent women,” Zin Mar Aung, a founder of the Rainfall Gender Studies Group and a well-known women’s rights activist, was quoted saying.

Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Soe and Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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