Burma Times: 31 August 2015
The European Rohingya Council (ERC) is deeply troubled by, and unequivocally condemns the new controversial laws, Restricting Religious Conversion and Interfaith Marriage Bill signed by the Myanmar President Thein Sein last week.
The Religious Conversion law requires anyone who wishes to convert their religion must apply to the “local authorities” followed by an interview with a waiting period of three months. This is completely contrary to the democratic principles and to the universal human rights. Under the constitution of Myanmar, everyone is free to choose his or her religion accordingly. The current law signed by President Thein Sein is totally against the constitution.
In May, the president enacted the Population Control Bill that requires mothers in some regions of the country to make a space between the births of their children at least three years apart. This law further legalizes the oppression against ethnic minorities’ right especially the rights of Rohingya minority. In the near future, the President is likely to enact another new controversial law Polygamy Bill that has been sent to the Parliament to get approved.
The four controversial religion bills were proposed by the Buddhist Nationalist Group 969 in June 2013 with a carefully designed anti-Muslims and anti-ethnic minority sentiments, and have been enacted by the President Thein despites objections of United States and human rights activists around the world since it also goes against Myanmar’s own constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.
The new laws received condemnations from international human rights activists including National League for Democracy who view the bills as destructive to women’s rights, as well as a sign of growing islamophobia in the country.
David Mathieson of watchdog Human Rights Watch said “the new legislation champions an ultra-nationalist agenda that could fuel religious instability, and this could be used in the lead up and after the election to crack down on religious minorities.”
We, therefore, call upon the Myanmar Government to revise and withdraw all the bills, which are contrary to the democratic principles, and discriminatory towards the women and religious minorities. We also call upon international community to take necessary measures to ensure Myanmar government respects the democratic values:
- The right to freely choose a spouse, and to enter into marriage with their free will.
- The rights to freely and responsibly decide on the numbers and spacing of their children.
- To practice their religions freely.