Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Burma's Parliament Passes Controversial Religious Conversion and Monogamy Laws

According to Human Rights Watch, on Aug. 21 Burma's joint parliament passed two bills that violate human rights and threaten to entrench religious discrimination.  The Religious Conversion Bill will require anyone wishing to change religion to be over 18, and then to file an application with a local Religious Conversion Scrutinization and Registration Board.  It is feared that many local boards will be dominated by ethnic Buddhists who will be biased against conversion to other faiths. The second bill, the Monogamy Bill, is seen as targeting religious minorities that practice polygamy. These two laws, along with the Population Control Law which became law in May, and the Interfaith Marriage Law, passed in July but not yet signed into law, were promoted by the Association for Protection of Race and Religion ("Ma Ba Tha"), an organization of Buddhist monks with an anti-Muslim and ultra-nationalist agenda. Human Rights Watch urges Burma's President Thein Sein to refuse to sign the two newly-passed bills.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also issued a statement this week condemning Burma's Religious Conversion Bill.