In its latest move to discriminate against ethnic minorities, Myanmar’s Parliament passed a new bill stripping the rights of Buddhist women to marry men outside their religion.
The measure is being criticized as discriminatory by activists and human rights organizations, which call the entire act a staged affair to provoke the country’s Muslim population.
The Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill is one of the four bills passed for the Protection of Race and Religion Laws despite fresh warnings that they violate the Buddhist-majority country’s constitution and international standards.
“It’s shocking that Burma’s Parliament has passed yet another incredibly dangerous law, this time legislating clearly discriminatory provisions targeting the rights of religious minority men and Buddhist women to marry who they wish without interference,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.
The discriminatory bill, pushed by an organization of Buddhist monks who promote hard-line Buddhist nationalism, is believed to be the latest move to marginalize the Rohingya Muslims, who are regarded as illegal immigrants in their own country.
The government considers Rohingya as outsiders, denying them citizenship and depriving them of basic human rights. The religious tensions have also led to deadly violence in Myanmar, compelling thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee their homeland in dangerous, overcrowded boats to Malaysia and Thailand over past few months.
“They [MPs] are not thinking about the people, they are just thinking about themselves to maintain their seats in parliament,” human rights activist May Sabai Phyu told Al Jazeera. “If they do not approve, Ma Ba Tha [Committee to Protect Race and Religion] will challenge them, and tell people not to vote for them.”
Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has 14 days to either sign the bill into a law or return it to the parliament with proposed changes.
“They are just doing this for political purposes; it’s not about protecting women’s rights,” the activist added.
The law would require Buddhist women to register with the government if they intend to marry non-Buddhists and the government would have the right to stop the marriage if there are any “objections.”