Myanmar has long had a stated commitment to women’s role in public life. It was among the first countries in Asia to grant women the right to vote, in 1935. Myanmar endorsed the Beijing Declaration in 1995 and became a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1997. The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women 2013–2022 makes women’s equal participation and leadership in governance at all levels a key priority.
But the influence of tradition and widespread ignorance of the law still deny women many of the fruits of Myanmar’s formal commitments to equality.
Now, The Asia Foundation and a local partner have produced a simple guide to women’s legal rights in Myanmar. Key Laws Impacting Women in Myanmar presents all existing laws, rights, and regulations relevant to women in an engaging and easy-to-use handbook. Important laws like those protecting women from violence and discrimination are accompanied by explanations of what constitutes violence and discrimination and resources, such as hotline numbers, for obtaining legal assistance.
Eighteen members of parliament attended the handbook’s high-profile unveiling in Yangon, along with officials from the Department of Social Welfare, representatives from women’s networks and civil society organizations, members of a broad spectrum of political parties, and Foundation development partners. Our Myanmar office also convened a roundtable discussion, Women and Laws in Myanmar. Panelists included Kyi Pyar, member of parliament; Hnin Shwe Sin Hlaing, program manager for the Gender Equality Network; and Win Htain, an attorney.
The new handbook arrives at a time when women in Myanmar face a broad range of challenges such as domestic abuse, rape, human trafficking, harassment in public places, limited job opportunities, and inadequate representation in government. The Foundation and its partners will distribute the handbook to parliamentarians, lawyers, political parties, libraries, women’s networks, and civil society organizations across the country.
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