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Public Announcements from Myanmar’s Former Military related Ultranationalist Political Forces Fears Sexual Minorities

In Myanmar, many marginalized groups constrained from common values grasped by major populations are usually perceived as threads to National identity. Dominant views of Burmese cultural values and Buddhism are merged with Nationalism; motives to wipe out or prosecute religious, ethnic, cultural ideological and sexual minorities are usually popular among ultranationalist groups. During the 2015 election campaign, many Muslim people are injured, killed and their properties are destroyed after hate speeches and hoaxes towards them were spread by Ultranationalist dark forces guided by some right-wing political parties. This year as the general elections are getting closer, fear has risen among LGBTIQAs people in Myanmar that they would become the target of these groups as sexual minorities saw public announcements of Union Solidary and Development Party (USDP) led by former military generals and their alliance parties which are notorious for their ultranationalist movements.

The problem has been ignited by sex education lessons which were newly added to life skills for Grade-11 students as an amendment of the New Curriculum for 2020-2021 academic year, by the Ministry of Education. Although the lessons are intended to prevent premarital pregnancy,  STIs, HIV & AIDS, as well as to be all-inclusive in society including sexual minorities (LGBTQIAs) in implementing sustainable development goals, the pro-nationalist groups do not seem to impress these lessons as they express explicit sexual conducts. These conservative groups argued that sex education lessons are against morality and should not be discussed openly in public as stated by Burmese traditions and customs.

In a public announcement issued by Union Solidary and Development Party (USDP) on 20th May 2020, pessimistic opinions towards sex education were clearly stated that the lessons support premarital sexual relations; they acknowledge sex prior to the age of consent for women according to Burmese customs and traditional marriage act; they decriminalize consented intercourse with underage women and convincing towards them; they rather persuade students to be sexually aroused than educates; they naturalize intercourse at puberty and sees Burmese cultural values which prohibits sexual conducts as barriers according to human rights; they encourage sex before marriage in Burmese society, and finally they perceive gay sex as a natural phenomenon and suggests sexual misconducts which are contrary to human nature.  The announcement also describes that although a representative from USDP highlighted these issues, the parliament turned down his proposal and it was a tragedy to Burmese parents as well as the whole Burmese society.

As soon as the announcement was uploaded on the Facebook page of USDP, it went viral on the internet among Myanmar netizens and criticisms towards these statements took Facebook feeds by storm. Yet the majority of Myanmar netizens on Facebook tend to welcome these sex education lessons, there are still many conservative people who contested these lessons as they express explicit sexual conduct. Conservative idealisms are still prevalent in Burmese society and patriarchy is still firmly rooted in real life as a closed-door system was practiced in the country for many decades.

Similar content which contests sex education lessons can also be found in another statement issued in 23rd May 2020 by six Mandalay branch of pro-nationalist political parties namely National Unity Party, National Development Party, National Democratic Force, Wun Thar Nu Democratic Party, Democratic Party (Myanmar), and Union Solidary and Development Party as a collaboration. In the fourth paragraph of the announcement, it was described that sex education lessons not only acknowledge gay sex which is allowed in some western countries it could also motivate to legalize same-sex marriage which is against Burmese traditions and customs.

However, in a press conference held in 22nd May 2020 related to sex education lessons, director-general of the Ministry Basic Education explained that instances on gay sex described in the lessons were to educate students to prevent from gay sex, not to mix with supporting it and anyone who commits sex against natural order will be seized by the criminal code 377. Yet it was acknowledged in the curriculum of life skills for Grade-11 students that it is an implementation of Sustainable development goals, it can be assumed that “Leave no one behind but LGBTQIs” since the director-general of the ministry of basic education violates gender equality.

 

It can be empathetically analyzed that these statements were issued in the fear of loss of national identity as quoting Buddhism as well as Burmese traditions and customs as standardized moral values were often seen in them. The lack of the knowledge on non-binary constructed nature of SOGIESC (Sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual characteristics) as well as perceiving international human rights law as an intervention to sovereignty motivates pro-nationalist groups to prosecute sexual minorities who are deviated from the mainstream.

As conservative idealism is dominated in Myanmar society, hetero normativity, homophobia, and patriarchy are strongly rooted, and people with different sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions constrained from mainstream stereotypical gender framing are counted as abnormal, lowered, or morally corrupted. Because of the existence of penal code 377, which criminalizes sodomy as sex against the natural order, LGBTIQ members are highly risked to be seized up at any time.

CAN-Myanmar & PFLAG Myanmar