Burma passes restrictive population control bill

Burma's President Thein Sein on May 23 signed into law a bill requiring some mothers to space the births of their children three years apart. The Population Control Health Care bill, passed by parliament last month, allows authorities the power to implement "birth-spacing" in areas with high rates of population growth. Though the bill has no punitive measures, US deputy secretary of state Anthony Blinken and rights activists worry it will be used to repress women's rights as well as religious and ethnic minority rights. Speaking on the matter, Blinken stated: "We shared the concerns that these bills can exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions and undermine the country's efforts to promote tolerance and diversity." The government claims the bill and three others like it were aimed at bringing down maternal and infant mortality rates and protecting women and minorities, but activists argue that there are better ways to accomplish this goal.

Amnesty International (AI) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) [advocacy websites] in March urged Burma to reject or revise proposed laws they claim would "entrench already widespread discrimination and risk fueling further violence against religious minorities." UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights special rapporteur on Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, expressed concern last April about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country's Rakhine state, and earlier that year called for an immediate investigation by authorities following reports of alarming levels of violence there.

From Jurist, May 24. Used with permission.

Note: AP notes that the Population Control Health Care Bill was "drafted under pressure from hard-line Buddhist monks with a staunchly anti-Muslim agenda." It comes amid escalated persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma, leading to a massive exodus from the country and regional refugee crisis. (See: Bernama; GMA, Reuters, May 24)