LGBT rights in Burma
|This article is outdated. (October 2012)|
|LGBT rights in Burma|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Illegal|
|Ten years to life in prison (though rarely enforced)|
|No recognition of same-sex relationships|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Burma face legal challenges and discrimination not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same sex sexual activity is illegal in Burma and punishable by fines and imprisonment for ten years to life. The past authoritarian nature of the government made it difficult to obtain accurate information about the legal or social status of LGBT Burmese citizens. However, along with the ongoing political reforms, improvements in media and civil freedoms have allowed LGBT people to gain more and more recognition in the country.
Section 377 of the penal code prohibits same sex sexual activity and sodomy. Along with fines, the punishment is ten years to life, though no known enforcement has been done in recent years. In 2001, the exile group called the All Burma Students' Democratic Front voted to have the law repealed. This was seen as a victory by the Committee for Lesbigay Rights in Burma, although such a change is not likely to occur given the current political climate.
The following sections of the penal code can also be used against LGBT people in Burma:
- Sections 269 & 270 make it a crime for a person to negligently spread a sexually transmitted disease.
- Section 290 makes it a crime to commit "a public nuisance", not specified in the code, with fines up to two hundred rupees.
- Sections 292 – 294 make it a crime to make, sell, or distribute "obscene" material or songs to adults or minors and to engage in any obscene acts in public.
- Section 372 prohibits buying or selling a prostitute under the age of eighteen or using a prostitute to engage in illicit sexual relations.
- Section 377- Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term for which shall not be less than 2 years, but may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to a fine that shall not be less than four hundred rupees but may extend to one thousand rupees.
- Section 469 prohibits engaging in any marriage ceremony absent of a legal marriage.
- Section 5(j) of the Emergency Provisions Act prohibits anything that might affect the morality of an individual, society or the public in a negative way.
Marriage and Family
Society & Culture
During the military regime, no organized LGBT political or social life was able to exist. Burma's social mores about human sexuality have been described as being "extremely conservative.".
Aung Myo Min is an openly gay man and has been involved in the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF). In 2005 he talked about his coming out process and the homophobia that exists, even with the pro-democracy opposition. Today he is involved with exile Burma human rights organizations, including the Campaign for Lesbigay Rights in Burma.
In 2003, FocusAsia (Star TV) aired a story about the Nat Kadaws. The "Utopia Guide to Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar & Vietnam" references "transgender shaman channeling spirits at Myanmar sacred festivals." Yet, within Burma itself, no formal gay bars or LGBT-rights organizations exist. There are only some unconfirmed reports that certain nightclubs in the cities that are a reputation for both heterosexual and LGBT clientele.
Despite the illegal nature of it, homosexuality and gender expression has become more visible in Burma, especially after the political reforms. Gay and lesbian couples freely cohabit in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, though they are not legally allowed to marry. The increased media freedom has also allowed journalists to report on the gay and lesbian community. Same-sex couples have also been able to celebrate ceremonial marriages in major cities without any legal persecution.
Burma also celebrated its first gay pride in several cities around the country in 2012, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia
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