Faith and Society News

Myanmar Race and Religion laws attract concerns

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Myanmar’s recently adopted Race and Religion laws are attracting the attention of Amnesty International, the UN human rights experts and faith groups.

The four bills, presented as encouraging the country’s way of life, regulate monogamy, religious conversion, interfaith marriage, and population control.

csm_Myanmar_d6267902f2Under the new laws individuals wanting to convert from a religion must notify a local government-established committee, show proof that they have undergone religious study within the last 90 days and wait for approval to convert.

A Buddhist woman wishing to marry outside her faith must notify local officials who will publicly publish her intent to marry and wait for 14 days to see if there are any objections to the marriage. If there are objections, the couple may not be allowed to marry. Interfaith married couples must now register so that their union is noted by local officials. In terms of population control, officials may require women in certain areas of Myanmar to space the births of their children in three-year intervals.

The laws were originally proposed in 2013 and made their way through Myanmar’s lower and upper houses of parliament in 2014 and early 2015. The population control law was approved by parliament in April 2015 and signed into law by Myanmar President Thein Sein in May. The other bills soon followed, with the last one signed into law on Aug. 31.

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