EU slams 'discriminatory' marriage bill

YANGON — The European Union says a controversial marriage bill approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on July 7 is discriminatory and risks undermining democratic progress, AFP reported.

The Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage bill is part of a package of four laws originally proposed by hardline nationalist monks.

A draft of the bill published in December outlined a series of regulations governing marriage between Buddhist women and men of other faiths, including a rule that the couple must apply to local authorities for permission and publicly announce the engagement.

“The bill discriminates against women by placing restrictions on Buddhist women’s right to marry outside their religion,” the EU said in a statement released on July 8, adding it would also be detrimental to religious minorities, especially non-Buddhist men.

The marriage bill, that was yet to be signed into law by President U Thein Sein “appears not to respect international human rights standards” and fails to uphold Myanmar’s treaty obligations, the EU said.

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The package of laws taken together could “undermine the transition towards national reconciliation and an open democratic society,” it said.

A population control law, allowing regional governments to introduce family planning regulations to lower birth rates, was approved by the President in May.

About 100 women’s rights groups signed an open letter against the marriage law proposal last year. Several said they had subsequently received threats.

“Our country’s democracy is very fragile and weak. This law should not be enacted,” U Zar Talian, an MP from Chin State told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw ahead of the vote.

Supporters dismissed concerns about the bill, with U Saw Hla Tun, a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, saying it would give Buddhist women “equal rights” if they married a man of another religion.

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